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As new online gambling regulation sweeps across Europe and threatens now to wash up on the shores of one of the world’s biggest markets, the UK, Malta’s licensed casino operators are looking for new territories to invest in.
The US is a huge opportunity though fraught with the complexities of State-by-State regulation. Meanwhile, to the north, Canada, though with only 10 percent of the population of the States, still appeals as a less challenging proposition.
In fact, for years Canada has been one of the world’s best value ‘grey’ markets. This is thanks to a legal framework that allows only State-run lottery and fixed odds games sites to operate within the country but does not block offshore operators from taking bets from Canadian citizens or make it illegal for those citizens to place bets at sites run by offshore betting companies.
Originally, Canadian law made the practice of gambling or taking bets illegally. This was codified in the Criminal Code of Conduct, originally set out in 1892, but since the 1960s exceptions have been made to the rules and the governments of the Provinces have been given the right to run lotteries as fund-raising activities, and then eventually land-based casinos, and online games of chance.
The most popular online gambling site based in Canada is currently PlayNow.com by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, but it faces very strong competition from offshore operators, and in particular those licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority.
For now, the Canadian market represents an opportunity for Malta-based gambling operators to offset potential losses brought on by regulation in Europe, but how long before Canada itself looks to regulate and insist on licensing for offshore businesses, and tax gross gaming yield?
Well, while there are no immediate plans for this to happen, the first steps have recently been taken by the government of Ontario, led by Doug Ford, to give powers to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to regulate online gambling and issues licenses to privately-run gambling operators in that province.
These plans were tentatively published in the 2019 budget but have been given more weight in the 2020 budget, partly because of the dire need to raise funds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
No one is expecting things to change overnight though, and this represents the plan of just one of Canada’s nine provinces. Indeed, this is just one initiative at a very challenging time for Canada’s governments and regulation will realistically take a few years to plan and roll-out, maybe longer.
For now, Malta-based operators will continue to enjoy the rewards of offering their products to Canada’s gamblers.
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