The iGaming Show EP 16 - (Celebrating 2 Years Of Regulated iGaming In Ontario With Paul Burns)

The iGaming Show EP 16 - (Celebrating 2 Years Of Regulated iGaming In Ontario With Paul Burns) cover

The iGaming Show EP 16 - (Celebrating 2 Years Of Regulated iGaming In Ontario With Paul Burns)

April 4, 2024

In this episode of The iGaming Show, we celebrate Ontario’s iGaming and sports betting industry completing two years. We explore the journey, challenges, and successes that have shaped Ontario’s online gaming sector.

Guest: Paul Burns is the President & CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association.

The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce, is a podcast that will analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations.

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Full episode transcript:

Varad Mehta: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the 16th episode of The iGaming Show presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehta, and in this podcast, we analyse gaming industry trends with experts on various gaming organisations. In today’s episode, we celebrate Ontario’sregulated iGaming market completing two years with Paul Burns, the President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. So without further ado, let’s get the show rolling. Paul, so how we begin this podcast, and you know this, is by asking you a few fun questions. I have three lined up for you. Let’s see if they hit this year. I saw on your LinkedIn that you were at the Partnership Summit of the NFL Canada or NFL Canada, and I believe you got to see the Vince Lombardi Trophy. So what was that experience like?

Paul Burns: It’s wonderful to see. And the NFL has been such a great partner with the industry. I’ll actually one up that. If you ever get to go to NFL headquarters in New York, they have copies of all of the Super Bowl rings in the lobby. And the one thing you can note is they’re getting progressively bigger every year.

VM: More gold, more diamond in there.

PB: Yeah. And then obviously, the Patriots had quite a run and the things they did to each of their rings to make them different. But they also have the Vince Lombardi trophy there, too. But having the replicas of or copies of all of the Super Bowl rings is pretty cool to see.

VM: That’s awesome. My second fun question, keeping it about sports today. Did you ever play a sport in school, or college, or university, or did you ever want to?

PB: I played hockey, and I still do.

VM: Oh, nice. Okay. There you go.

PB: No, not very good anymore, but I play pick up hockey. But I also coach hockey. My teenage daughter is still a competitive hockey player and I’ve been coaching her team for a number of years now. So this is actually our final year because she’s about to graduate from high school and go on to university. She’s not going to play hockey competitively anymore. So it’s fun. So I get to be on the ice a couple of times a week with practises and occasionally get to play for myself. But it’s fun. I love the game. Always have played it until I was 19 competitively. But it’s fun. I enjoy it. I’m a true Canadian hockey fan in every sense of the word.

VM: That’s awesome. There you go. There are some hidden secrets about Paul Burns that people probably didn’t know that we cracked. So, yeah, that’s a good one. And lastly, Paul, is right now there’s movies being remade that were really not prominent, but they’re cult classics from back in the day, the ‘80s, the ’70s. You have a film like Dune that’s come out. Then you have a new Road House that’s coming out for some weird reason. So what’s an old classic movie that you’d like to see get remade? That would actually make sense in today’s time.

PB: Oh, wow. That’s a tough question, actually. It’s funny because there’s so many of them have been remade. You’ve stumped me on that one. In terms of some of the classic ’80s movies, which I grew up watching and knows some of my…You just shouldn’t we make, to be making it, to be honest. It’s not going to get better. Oh, wow. I don’t really know, to be honest, to give you an off-the-top answer. That’s a great one because I’ve seen… I think Bill Murray is coming back in the next version of Ghostbusters. It’s like, okay, as he said, but sometimes they don’t get better from the original. But I like a wide range of movies. So I can’t put my finger on one. I’m sorry.

VM: No, that’s okay. That’s a good one. I always think that in terms of old movies, I feel like if you can bring back Westerns because when my dad showed me a lot of Clint Eastwood movies, and I would love to see that being remade in some capacity in modern times and just to see how they would do it. But yeah, ’80s, Bloodsport would be a good remake, but I’m sure they’ve made 100 versions of Bloodsport already. So yeah.

PB: That’s true.

VM: So moving on to the topic of discussion today. We’re just here as our annual check-in with Paul and we just want to know more about what’s happening in Canada’s gaming industry, talk about the online aspect, talk about the land-based aspect. But I’d like to start, Paul. Last year, I read there was a report that was released by iGaming Ontario, and which laid out all the economic benefits that came out due to this regulated gaming market. There was billions of dollars contributed to the province’s GDP. Jobs had been created because of this. Did you anticipate that the market would grow this fast within two years or a year, two?

PB: I think that when the market was being created in terms of the regulatory regime and commercial agreements and such, I think there was a high level of interest in the fact that much of the regulatory regime, especially, the AGCO was very consultative. They listened, the regime. There was no surprises from a lot of people in that. The revenue share agreement was fair. And so those things built upon the interest and helped seal the deal for bringing as many companies as we’ve seen come in. The fact it’s open licence has been unique to North America, which is given another avenue for companies who want to test their products in the marketplace in North America. But what we saw, and this is one of the things we told government in the conversations in Alberta that are starting, it’s the same. There’s a lot of infrastructure already here. There’s a lot of people already working in this space, companies like Paramount Commerce. From payments to technology, game development, all of that expertise. And the fact that there were some companies sitting here and have been here for decades. Pokerstars, in particular, had hundreds of people working in the north of Toronto, still do. TheScore was building out a strong platform and a product that they were licenced in the US, Rivalry in Australia. So there was lots of folks here, and that was the other part we’re trying to talk about. You’re going to unearth a lot of this activity that’s going on. And that’s part of what we wanted to say, that there are strong economic benefits. We don’t have to talk about direct revenue to government, but talking about the economic development benefits of helping an industry that’s here to grow and solidify its place in Canada and Ontario. And I think that’s something that we continue to advocate for in terms of government’s understanding that it’s not always just about how much money you gain every year from your share of gaming revenue, but what economic activity can you create, or what economic benefits, the jobs that can last for decades if you do this right. Those are the things we want to make sure that they understand, because that is that that contribution to GDP is very important. And I think that that’s really, in a lot of ways, a lot of politicians I talk to, when they understand that, they like that. And the fact is that for them is a good reason beyond the simple and the obvious ones that the province stated when they started that they wanted to increase consumer protection and protect consumer choice, and they’ve done that. And the benefits not only are the revenue to government, but also the jobs and the economic activity that have been created because we have such an amazing technology infrastructure from the volume of STEM grads, the companies that are already here in the tech space is one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in North America in the GTA, in Ontario. But there’s all other parts of the country, too, and that’s the other side. In Montreal, in New Brunswick, in Alberta, in the lower mainland of Vancouver, there’s places all over the country where there are innovators doing wonderful things. And licencing and regulation is going to keep them here, keep them in Canada, keep them in their jurisdiction.

VM: And just following that idea of jobs being created, there already being a really good tech industry within Canada. Do you think seeing all these benefits, other provinces might want to speed up their process of launching their own regulated gaming markets where international merchants are moving in to these provinces?

PB: We know a lot of people are looking at the entire Ontario experience. We’ve seen provinces have been reaching out to the AGCO and iGaming Ontario to learn more. And that’s great because they should. And because the fact that it doesn’t get mentioned very much anymore is that Canadian have had unrestricted access to online gaming since its inception. And so why did we have this infrastructure here already? Well, we had companies and engineers that started. Many left because they went to where they could get licence where their customers were. But the point was, Canadians were spending billions of dollars on these sites and money was leaving the country, and there was no economic benefit. And those in the country were not being able to compete. So when you look at, you go back to that, that that’s still there in the rest of Canada. In Ontario, the unregulated market has shrunk dramatically, but that’s still in the rest of Canada. That’s still a very important part that there’s a business and activity going on there. And that’s part of what we want them to recognise is that from a consumer protection point of view, it’s important to bring in the level of regulatory oversight you have for your other sectors of the gaming industry in your jurisdiction. And so it is important to make sure that the provinces understand what’s going on. And the tools are within their control. The provinces have always had the tools to do this. I first started raising the question about regulated iGaming in 2006, 2007, because it’s hey, this is coming. It’s growing. And it kept growing, kept coming. And Ontario finally took the necessary steps because the provinces have had jurisdiction over gaming. It’s in their control. And so now seeing that someone took the leap and did it, I think that Alberta is quite keen. They’ve made their intentions clearly stated that they’re intending to do something, and they’re learning from the scenario of experience directly, and I’ve had good conversations. But I think that then they’re going to take a look at how it fits into their gaming market. But I think that they clearly see the benefits, and that’s what we’re hoping other jurisdictions do, too.

VM: Do you think that land-based operators are also launching their own online gaming platform, seeing all the benefits that are coming through for people who are having that online gaming offerings?

PB: So far, Caesars is an offering in the province as they operate Windsor. Caesars Windsor. Mohegan Gaming Entertainment in Niagara Falls has launched their play, Fallsview. It’s like no one else has at this point in time. There’s a couple of issues around this that we still, as the CGA, want the government of Ontario to address. And because it’s not a seamless process, unfortunately, for the casino operators. They have another…There’s not one set of regulatory standards for gaming in Ontario. There’s one for iGaming.There’s one for land-based. Their contract, they have to… For land-based gaming it is with Ontario Lottery and Gaming they need to create a second one with iGaming Ontario. So it’s another system, again. And then beginning to make it a true omnichannel experience for their customer. We don’t have the single wallet model yet where a casino customer could take, Oh, I’ve got an account. I’ve got money in my account. I can play at home. I can play physically in the building. That doesn’t exist yet. There’s a number of barriers that they still need to address to make the true beneficial opportunity for land-based gaming. And they’re committed to working on it, and we’re committed to holding their feet to the fire on it because we want to make sure that the casinos want to be able to extend their brands to their customers and players that they have to play at home and do it seamlessly and easy. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that way, and that’s something that that’s where we need to do. There’s still lots more work to do, and we need the AGCO and OLG and I go to work together to make sure that they can make that happen.

VM: That’s a good one. I don’t think people would think about single wallets that way. That’s a really cool tech aspect that people could consider when offering.

PB: Yeah, but you have to think of it from the customer’s point of view. “I love coming to your facility. I’ve got money in an account with you that I can use online. Well, why can’t I access it if you’re the same business in the same jurisdiction, I should be able to access it and make that a seamless experience.” Because that’s the nature of what everybody is wanting to… What’s good for the customer? How can you make it seamless and a wonderful experience for them? And that’s where we want everybody to look at it from. It’s what is the customer experience in this? And those are the kinds of things that the customer would be looking for. It’s hard to explain to them the bureaucracy of government and why you can’t access your online money in a physical casino. That’s not an acceptable experience for the customer. And so those are kinds of things. And it’s a way to begin to introduce cashless options into the casino environment, because it’s still a cash-based business. We firmly believe that customers and the casino operators should have access to all payment options. It’s not about the exclusion of cash to take others, but actually a wide range of payment options should be available for customers to make, again, what’s the customer perspective? We have a lot of people today that don’t carry cash. Those are the kinds of things that we want to see happen because that can truly make it beneficial for the land-based business, and they can leverage their customers into offering a really great experience.

VM: Now, apart from single wallets or having those tech aspects within gaming. Are there any other technology trends that you anticipate that might come up within iGaming and sports betting in Canada or even in land-based operations? Are you excited to see something?

PB: What I’ve seen over the last couple of years is some really great Canadian entrepreneurs, innovators who have been building unique product. Obviously, we see a lot in the sports space, but I think of companies like Low6, which are doing some contest. And work with Bet99 in the NHL. cerosports has created some really great products for sports that work in the lottery space as well as the sportsbook space. And then we’ve seen the same from an affiliate side and marketing customer acquisition and retention. There’s really some really great work being done out there, and that’s fantastic to see. And that’s something that you get with having the regulated market here is that the innovators are here in trying to create new products for operators to look at, to experiment with, to buy. And a lot of that is has bubbled up because of the entire marketplace here and allowed them to get a foothold and access other customers around the world in North America. And that’s been terrific. So these markets can breed innovation. And companies are always looking for new ways to interact with their customers and offer their products. So it’s great to see. And it’s something that I like to talk about because I get to meet a lot of these folks who are doing some really great stuff in the affiliate space, and product space, and other things. And so it’s fun. And it’s been great that the entire marketplace has been able to unleash some of those folks to be able to create their businesses.

VM: That’s a good one because I think technology and gaming, I think when mixed together, they can really provide a player a really immersive gaming experience. But another really important aspect of gaming in Canada is the angle of consumer protection that has been central to what Ontario has… When Ontario came up with the regulated gaming space, consumer protection was at the core in that. So I read somewhere that iGaming Ontario is intending to issue request proposals for a centralised self-exclusion solution. Can you tell us why something like that is important? Because obviously, they’ve made such efforts, all, everyone has made efforts to have that consumer protection aspect at the forefront. So why do you think something like this is important?

PB; Well, having a place for people who recognise that they have problems with gaming products can go to self-exclude. And that doesn’t… And being able to have a place where they don’t even have to sign up to get an account to be able to self-exclude, but even just to go and say, I don’t want to play, I need a place to self-exclude. To be able to do that is important. And given the nature of the access to online gaming and mobile devices and the rest, and given the size of the market, you want to make sure that once someone self-excludes in one place, they self-exclude everywhere. And in fact, that includes land-based casinos and online sites. And it should be all. And it should be one integrated self-exclusion programme for the entire province to make it seamless for people who want to do it. Don’t make it hard. Don’t make it difficult. Let’s make it simple that people can go to a place. And when they self-exclude for one, they self-exclude for all. And if we build a model on a platform herein Ontario and being able to do this, it could be a model for the country. We could have a national self exclusion programme at some point, eventually, if that was the case, because the technology isn’t difficult. It’s just integrating operators and lots of operators into the single platform, and that they can ensure that if you have problems, we shouldn’t be making people go from site to site to site. That’s ridiculous. And that was always the intention from the beginning was to do this, and we’re happy it’s coming, and think it’s a great initiative to be able to do it. But we’d like to see, and particularly, one for the entire… for land-based, for online, everybody can self-exclude in one easy to use spot to be able to do that. And it’s, again, we have to think of it from the individual, from the customer, from the person, thinking back from them, how can we best make it seen seamless and easy for people to be able to take the action they’re wanting to take and not make it hard. If it’s too difficult, does it dissuade them from doing it? Things like that have to be very important. So we’re pleased it’s coming. We hope it’s going to work towards one single self exclusion programme for the entire province, which includes land-based and online. And we look forward to seeing it. We’ve been very supportive and encouraging iGO to do it as quickly as possible.

VM: That’s a great initiative. When it comes, I think that would be a really good initiative.

PB: We hope it comes out that way.

VM: No, definitely.

PB: I don’t know the details yet.

VM: No, definitely. And my last question, Paul, would be your predictions, your analysis for what’s to come next in Ontario or Canada for iGaming and sports betting or even land-based operations. What do you see as the top two or top three things that are going to happen in the next year?

PB: Well, the next year, I think we’re going to continue having a conversation about regulated markets. I think that that’s for sure for regulating iGaming. Again, we, as the CGA, have talked to jurisdictions. Knowing that Canadians are doing this with offshore sites, they’ve been doing it for 20-plus years, why don’t you want to put in the consumer protection measures, to protect players in your jurisdiction? We have, in Canada, have always been world leaders and punched above way above our weight in terms of initiatives in the responsible gaming field. So everybody should be eager to be able to bring regular gaming to their jurisdictions. And so it’s the nature. It’s been a disruptor. The Internet has disrupted lots of industries, and it’s done it to this one. And the potential governments, a lot of corporations haven’t had monopolies or control of the jurisdictions exclusively for decades now. So why don’t you want to create a level playing field for you and a stronger consumer protection measure? So we’re going to have that conversation and continue to have it. Would that mean new markets opening in this coming year? I don’t know. I think it takes time. Alberta is keenly interested in having the conversation and starting to work. But I think that we just want to continue to make sure that we have that conversation with as many jurisdictions as possible, because we believe in regulated gaming. We believe our members have welcomed regulation, sign up for jurisdictions when they’re available to them, and it makes business interest for them to participate in those markets. They do. And so that’s why for us, that’s extremely important. And I think we’re going to see continual conversations around gaming and gaming advertising, which is fine. We believe the debate has been highly emotional to this point in time and actually missing a lot of facts because advertising has actually been declining in the last year. And there’s a great number of rules and regulations and oversight that it put in place over advertising, not only from the AGCO, but from the advertising-broadcast sector. So there’s lots of policies, there’s lots of regulations, lots of oversight. And so we’re just going to make sure that we can educate the public and stakeholders in understanding what’s actually occurring. We’ve had gaming advertising for 30-plus years, 40 years in Canada. So it’s not new. Some of it’s different. But that also become comes, those are the sites we want people to play on. Those are the regulated sites. It’s the privilege you get with being regulated and licenced in the jurisdiction is you get to advertise. And we want to make sure that they continue to do that because that’s the place we want people to go to. If you’re going to get on a regulated site, it’s going to give you the highest level consumer protection, ensure fair games, and safe, secure environment. And that’s what we want.

VM: 100 %. Paul, I want to thank you once again. I always love and I always look forward to our annual checkups. And whenever I see if you post something on LinkedIn and you’re just so active within the industry, it’s always good to learn straight from an industry expert. So thank you so much for your time again. And I hope whoever listens to this can also get a lot of insights and learn a lot from this podcast.

PB: Well, thanks for having me. I always enjoy it and keep up the good work. I enjoy the podcast. I learned a little bit more about payments industry, thanks to you. So appreciate that. And we’ll talk again soon.

VM: Yes. Thank you, Paul.Thank you.

PB: Thanks very much.

VM: Seeing the amazing results coming in from Ontario’s regular iGaming market, it is safe to say that other Canadian provinces will be looking forward to creating and launching their own gaming markets. I want to thank our guest today, Paul Burns, the CEO and President of the Canadian Gaming Association, for joining us today and providing his expertise. If you have any questions for us or Paul, then please do comment them down below. Please don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. For the episode transcript and other amazing content, please visit: Thank you so much for tuning into The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehtaand until next time, keep gaming.

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