On April 11, 2019, the Government of Ontario released its 2019 budget (2019 Budget), which includes several proposals that will impact the gaming landscape in Ontario once implemented. The gaming-related highlights from the 2019 Budget are summarized below.
SINGLE-EVENT SPORTS WAGERING
As previously indicated by Ontario's Minister of Finance, Victor Fedeli, the 2019 Budget reaffirms Ontario's Progressive Conservative government's commitment to making single-event sports wagering in Ontario a reality. The 2019 Budget notes that single-event sports wagering is legal in the United States and is supported by major professional sports leagues in North America, including the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer.
Any change to the sports betting regime cannot be implemented by Ontario alone and will require the federal government to amend existing restrictions on single-event sports wagering in the Criminal Code. The 2019 Budget states that Ontario's government will continue to lobby the federal government to implement the necessary legislative changes. The most recent attempt to amend the necessary provisions of the Criminal Code was in 2016 with Bill C-221, which died at second reading in the House of Commons.
LEGALIZING ONLINE GAMING IN ONTARIO
The 2019 Budget notes that Ontarians are currently spending C$500-million a year on online gaming (most of which the 2019 Budget acknowledges is spent on grey-market websites). As a result, the Ontario government wants to ensure "the people of Ontario have access to safe and legal gambling options" by establishing a "competitive market for online legal gambling that will reflect consumer choice while protecting consumers who play on these websites". As a first step, the province plans to consult with key stakeholders to develop and shape the market.
EXPANDING PLAY OPTIONS
The 2019 Budget proposes several initiatives to be undertaken by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to expand the gaming options and products already available to Ontarians. Amongst these initiatives include proposed measures to:
- Allow for Ontario casinos to advertise complimentary alcohol
- Make it easier for lottery customers to purchase lottery tickets in grocery store checkout lanes at select retailers
- Allow consumers to purchase select products such as Pro-Line and 6/49 using their smartphone.
Recognizing the importance of gaming products to charities in Ontario, the 2019 Budget proposes to eliminate the fees currently applied to the sale of break open tickets. Once implemented, the change is expected to divert more than C$4-million per year to charities in Ontario fundraising through charitable gaming products.
More information on the gaming-related proposals included in the 2019 Budget will be available once the Ontario government introduces legislation to implement the proposed changes.
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