Update From The AGCO

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Private Member’s Bill C-218, which seeks to legalize single-event sports wagering in Canada, is currently being debated by Members of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons. Woodbine Entertainment has been front and centre in saying that it is extremely concerned that the horse racing industry may end up being an unintended consequence of the legislation.

Woodbine has stated that the bill creates an opening for international companies and others to offer wagering on horse races in Canada at the expense of the local industry.

Woodbine has explained that the horse racing industry is calling for Canada’s federal Trudeau Government to take over the sports betting initiative and proceed with a legislative package in the upcoming Fall Economic Statement or the 2021 Budget that legalizes single-event sports wagering with measures that ensure the local horse racing industry is not an unintended casualty. According to Woodbine, this can be done by ensuring only horse racing establishments can offer wagering on horse races. Woodbine has gone on to state that a new revenue source, ‘Historical Horse Racing’, should also be provided to the industry to offset any revenue loss to the new competitive product of single-event wagering on other sports.

On November 5, the Government of Ontario announced it has mandated the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to be the commercial ‘conduct and manage’ entity for Ontario’s online gaming market. The AGCO will continue in its role of regulator for all areas of gaming in Ontario.

The AGCO has stated that it will work in close partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Finance to establish a competitive market, and one that will bring the unregulated market’s online gaming operators into Ontario’s legal market and will include a robust consumer protection framework.

In order to eliminate any perception of a potential conflict between the AGCO’s existing role as gaming regulator and its new responsibility for the conduct and management of privately operated internet gaming sites, the bill introduced would, if passed, permit the creation of an AGCO subsidiary to carry out this new function independently from its regulatory oversight role. For greater clarity, the AGCO’s subsidiary will not be operating internet gaming sites. Instead, it will be responsible for the conduct and management of internet gaming sites otherwise operated by third parties, in accordance with the requirements for conducting and managing gaming under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The AGCO has stated that, over the next several months, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Finance and the AGCO will be holding consultations with interested stakeholders. The consultations will help inform a model that will ensure a competitive market for internet gaming operators and a safe online environment for consumers.

Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson has long stated that Woodbine should have a leadership role when it comes to single-event sports wagering.

“The largest and only legal online single-event sports wagering company in the country is Woodbine Entertainment,” Lawson recently told The Canadian Press. “There’s actually no other party that even comes close to our capabilities and I think it would be a huge, huge mistake to not have Woodbine Entertainment participate in sports wagering.

“We’re poised and ready to go with a whole system.”

(With files from the AGCO, The Canadian Press and Woodbine Entertainment)