Ontario’s New Regulated Online Market

Everything you need to know about key risks, prevention measures and global research to support harm minimization efforts in Ontario.

Ontario’s new regulated online market has launched. Over the last few months we have spoken to many of you about the changes coming to Ontario and what to expect. To help create a culture of safer play, and support the responsible gambling community in Ontario, RGC has compiled a list of resources. Below you will find information related to key risks, prevention measures and global research as well as links to support prevention efforts.

What to expect:

Operators entering Ontario means new and increased ways for the public to gamble with more options and opportunities than ever before. This increase in competition will undoubtedly translate to an influx of gambling advertising to levels previously unseen in the province. We can also anticipate:

  • Changes in gambling behaviour.
  • New player profiles that have different needs from traditional land-based players.
  • Increased enticement to vulnerable populations and certain ethno-cultural groups who may consider gambling as a form of income or a way to escape pre-existing mental health conditions.

Ontario will experience a significant shift in gambling exposure, making prevention education that is specific to the risks of online gambling, including sports betting more important than ever.

Who is at risk?

The 24/7 access and the ease to gamble more frequently and from anywhere, and with the barrage of marketing and direct mail advertising , online gambling presents increased risks to certain groups:

  • Youth and young adults are more likely to engage in risky behaviour and online gambling is one of the strongest predictors of gambling problems in young adults.
  • Certain ethno-cultural groups are more vulnerable to experiencing gambling harms.
  • Frequency of alcohol use, cannabis use, and gambling when depressed, stressed or anxious can impair judgement and are also associated with gambling harms.

Sports bettor profile

The expansion of online sports betting, its ease of access via the internet and the emotional and cultural value of sports raise the potential for gambling risk and harm. The characteristics generally associated with gambling problems among sports bettor are[1][2]:

  • Male
  • Young adult
  • Single
  • Higher levels of education
  • Engage in multiple types of gambling
  • Engage with multiple online operators
  • Frequently use multiple types of gambling promotions
  • Have significant others and friends who favour sports betting

This player profile will likely continue to change and evolve, but what remains the same is that different types of education and prevention programming are required. Partnering with leagues, sportsbooks and athletes during the design and development stages of prevention awareness campaigns provides a collaborative opportunity for all stakeholders to work together to create a 360 approach to reducing gambling harms.

Ontario will maintain its commitment to consumer protection

RG Check’s iGaming Accreditation has been embedded into the requirements for all existing and new igaming operators entering the Ontario market, making it an essential tool in Ontario’s consumer protection strategy. Consisting of 9 standards and 48 criteria for online gambling sites, the RG Check program will ensure the highest standards of responsible gambling will be maintained and help foster safe, and responsible play.

Global learnings

There is much to be learned from the many jurisdictions around the world that have undergone market expansion. We have an opportunity to use these learnings to proactively identify potential areas that need to be focused on:

What RGC research says

In preparation for this new market launch, RGC has conducted research to help identify pain points and provide the evidence needed to reduce gambling harms related to online gambling as we navigate a changing gambling landscape.

RGC’s Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices (CABP) conducted a provincial Online Gambling and COVID-19 study from April 2020 – December 2020 to understand gambling behaviours, mental health, substance use, and online behavioural risk factors.

The final wave of this study, which focused on online behaviours and market expansion revealed:
  • Roughly a quarter of past-year gamblers in Ontario indicated they would try online gambling (25.1%) or try new games (23.5%) upon expansion of the igaming market in the province.
  • 1 in 5 (19.1%) reported they would try new sites.
  • Smaller percentages indicated they would spend more time (13.2%) or money (9.9%) gambling.
  • All of these changes in behaviour were higher among those with gambling problems.

Gambling During COVID-19 in Ontario

View additional insights from the full COVID-19 longitudinal report, available for the first time on our website.

Read the Report

In early 2022, RGC’s latest research Prevention Insights: Gambling Harm Prevention in Chinese, South Asian, and Indigenous Communities identified insights specific and relevant to key communities and how to develop and implement culturally sensitive and appropriate approaches. Key findings from this study are:

  • Ontarians of Chinese descent were significantly less likely to agree that they would have their family’s unconditional support if their gambling habits were known.
  • Ontarians of South Asian descent who gamble represented the community with the greatest need for risk and harm prevention efforts.
  • Indigenous Peoples in Ontario who gamble demonstrated the largest proportion of those reporting their money spent gambling online had increased a lot.

Other important research led by the CABP team:

What is being done?

Prevention education that uses a consumer segmentation approach is crucial to providing messaging that is relevant and effective:

  • Educating youth about what gambling is and the risks, the warning signs of gambling harms and the availability of help resources are crucial before their habits form. Teaching youth about the similarities between gaming and gambling and how to manage screen time are increasingly becoming areas of focus for this age group. Prevention education delivered in engaging, fun and interactive ways have the most impact and help solidify a deeper understanding of the realities of gambling.
  • Research shows that young adults (18- to 24-year-olds) are at an increased risk of developing gambling problems. Prevention education focused on dispelling myths associated with gambling, how to identify signs of a gambling problem and sharing problem gambling services and safer play strategies can help young adults make informed decisions about their gambling.

The Update, is a research informed e-newsletter available for students and campus administrators to keep up-to-date on relevant information specific to young adults and gambling.

  • Prevention education campaigns targeted towards major sporting events, such as Super Bowl and cultural celebrations, such as Diwali and Lunar New Year are important in reinforcing the risks associated with gambling and how the public can protect themselves.

In the coming months, there will be a strong need for a prevention education campaign to balance out the gambling advertising that will occur in Ontario and to promote the importance of positive play and establish a culture of responsible gambling.

“RGC is committed to increasing collaboration between all stakeholders to prioritize consumer protection and to ensure that the right safeguards are in place to mitigate gambling harms. As the Ontario gambling sector continues to evolve, a research based approach to responsible gambling and prevention messaging will be a vital continuous improvement tool to ensure our strategies reflect the needs of the public. We look forward to continued collaborations with iGaming Ontario, AGCO, OLG the operators, treatment community and community partners to help support a culture of safer play and support those in need.” 

Shelley White, CEO, Responsible Gambling Council

Operator Resources

The new online gambling market will be regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), with iGaming Ontario (iGO) conducting and managing igaming when provided through private operators.

Learn more about AGCO’s standards for iGaming and updates to the marketing and advertising standards.

Learn more about the market framework and iGO’s process for new operators.

Responsible Advertising for iGaming webinar hosted by IAB Canada and thinktv, along with additional resources.

Support Resources

Ontario’s vast network of local resources offer free and confidential services, with many agencies providing support to family, friends and affected others. A full list of Ontario-wide treatment centres can be found here.

Multilingual services are also available through partnering community agencies across the province.


[1] Winters, K.C. & Derevensky, J. (February, 2019). Comprehensive Review of Sports Wagering and Gambling Addiction. Washington, DC: National Center on Problem Gambling.

[2] Humphreys BR, Perez L. Who bets on sports? Characteristics of sports bettors and the consequences of expanding sports betting opportunities. Estudios de economía aplicada. 2012;30(2):579-97.