Ontario lawmakers are calling for a legal shift of iGaming

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Posted on: Mar 14, 2022 07:57 am.

Last updated on: March 14, 2022 07:58.

Ontario will launch legal iGaming sites with interactive slots and table games on April 4th. At least one provincial lawmaker is siding with the land-based commercial casino industry, believing the introduction of online gambling comes at an extremely inopportune time.

Ontario iGaming online gambling casino Canada
Ontario Provincial Assemblywoman Lisa Gretzky stands outside her office in Toronto. Gretzky is urging government officials to delay iGaming until the province’s land-based casinos are fully operational again. (Image: Getty)

Canada’s largest brick-and-mortar casino operator – Great Canadian Gaming (GCG) – is not opposed to Ontario authorizing iGaming. However, the company believes that the proposed 20% online gross gaming revenue (GGR) tax will put land-based casinos, which are taxed at 55%, at a competitive disadvantage.

Provincial MP Lisa Gretzky (NDP-Windsor West), cousin-in-law of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, agrees that iCasinos pose a significant threat to the mainstream gaming industry. Gretzky argues that internet gambling should be suspended until all furloughed in-patient staff have been asked to return.

They must ensure that workers who are currently vacant are recalled, that those jobs are safe,” Gretzky said. “Indigenous leaders, workers, unions, chambers of commerce and mayors across the province are urging the provincial government not to implement iGaming without assurances that the thousands of land-based casino workers will be recalled immediately.”

Ontario casinos were only released from the COVID-19 operating restrictions imposed by the provincial government late last month.

1K remain unemployed

Around 1,000 Ontario casino workers remain unemployed, according to Unifor, Canada’s largest union. Unifor is concerned that many of these positions will never be recalled as iGaming poaches stationary play.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Indigenous First Nation leaders who operate tribal casinos have lent their support to efforts to delay the launch of internet gambling. The growing coalition has called on Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey to coordinate a review of the iGaming tax and put the forthcoming April 4 launch on hold in the meantime.

The group says Ontario’s internet gambling framework should better include brick-and-mortar casinos rather than just welcoming online-only operators. The alliance points to legal iGaming in the US, where online platforms have to work with land-based casinos.

The consequences of allowing iGaming to thrive at the expense of retail casinos are severe, Gretzky claims.

“Land-based casinos return 55% of net gambling winnings to the Ontario treasury. Billions of dollars going into our publicly funded health care, education, infrastructure…as well as our communities for community funded services,” Gretzky said.

High projections

An economic review of the potential negative impact on brick-and-mortar casinos from the introduction of iGaming suggests that the Ontario government should expect CA$3 billion in less land-based gaming taxes over the next five years. The study, commissioned by Great Canadian Gaming, also projects 2,500 outright job losses over the next half decade.

Ontario’s 28 physical casinos have invested significant amounts of capital over the past two years to keep their businesses open as much as possible in accordance with government regulations. Caesars Windsor, for example, claims to have spent more than $1 million on Plexiglas alone.

Proponents of legal iGaming counter that the authorization of online casino sites simply provides a regulated framework for players currently betting on offshore platforms across the internet. Interactive companies like DraftKings claim that iGaming will not significantly poach retail gaming.

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