PokerStars Eyes Ontario Market Ahead of Industry Launch

by Ralph Trayfalgar Updated:

With the province of Ontario opening their doors to the multi-billion dollar gaming industry later in April 2022, some of the biggest gaming operators have taken notice and have made moves to enter the market early to take advantage of this massive and heretofore untapped market. PokerStars, one of the largest and most popular competitors in the online poker room space, is one such operator.

According to a report from Pokerfuse, PokerStars intends to enter the newly-regulated Ontario online gambling market and deliver its class-leading products to the region in time for its official opening in less than two months. 

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A Surprise New Market

The Ontario government’s opening of iGaming operations in the province was a landmark move for North America - a region that until recently had very strict restrictions on real money gambling activities in the interest of protecting its users. 

Ontario is set to become the first province to operate a private market for online betting, and with forecasts that it will grow to be one of the largest gaming markets in North America, many people will be watching intently to see how things play out in the coming months.

Since the early 1900s, gambling has been prohibited in Canada unless it is controlled by province or territory governments, several of which today operate substantial lottery and casino operations as well as offer internet gambling choices.

Due to a lack of specific provisions in the law, offshore gambling websites have been able to provide their services to gamblers in Canada with little, if any repercussions, and research implies that the market share and control of these offshore companies in Canada are much larger and more extensive than expected. 

The opening of an iGaming branch by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) was done in an attempt to formally integrate and regulate these offshore gambling operators. The intended effect is twofold - first, direct regulation would allow for more effective responsible gambling initiatives to better protect players; and second, licensing and taxes enable the Ontario government to collect taxes from these formerly grey market operators. 

Closed-Market Concerns

As the first province in Canada with provisions for an online gambling market, the regulations for such a new frontier are likely to take time to fully mature. For this reason, Pokerstars generally accepts that playing poker in Ontario will be restricted to a closed-market system for the time being.

While this can be a concern in some cases, this situation is not necessarily new. PokerStars has had prior experience entering closed markets in various states in the US, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the PokerStars network in Italy is also similarly closed off.

From PokerStars’ perspective, having the closed network was found to be a viable trade-off; by tapping into the Ontario market, PokerStars would be one of the first online poker sites to take a slice of the Ontario market share pie, which is made up of a significant percentage of the province’s population of 15 million people. 

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