Canada's Premier Gaming Industry Magazine
Vol. 15 No. 1
CANADA'S NEW WORLD PM 40063056
With Ontario's regulated market now open, the gaming landscape is evolving
CanadianGamingSummit.com June 7-9, 2022 Toronto, ON
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Volume 15 No. 1
Chuck Nervick firstname.lastname@example.org 416.512.8186 ext. 227
Tom Nightingale email@example.com
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Canadian Gaming Business is published as a joint venture between MediaEdge Communications and the Canadian Gaming Association To advertise: For information on CGB’s print or digital advertising opportunities: Chuck Nervick 416-512-8186 ext. 227 firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2022 Canada Post Canadian Publications Mail Publications Mail Agreement No. 40063056 ISSN 1911-2378 Guest editorials or columns do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Canadian Gaming Business magazine's advisory board or staff. No part of this issue may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic or electronic process without written permission by the publisher. Subscription rates: Canada $40* 1 yr, $70* 2 yrs. USA $65 yr, $120* 2 yrs. International $90* 1 yr, $160* 2 yrs. *Plus applicable taxes. Postmaster send address changes to: Canadian Gaming Business Magazine 5255 Yonge Street Suite 1000, Toronto, Ontario M2N 6P4
Official Publication of the Canadian Gaming Summit
MESSAGE FROM THE CGA
Building a sustainable gaming industry By the Responsible Gambling Council
Where does Ontario stand two months in? By Dave Briggs
The operators’ view: DraftKings, PointsBet, Rush Street Interactive By Tom Nightingale
Friends with benefits: Ontario’s new market binds bookies, ball clubs, and broadcasters By Geoff Zochodne
Sports betting creates opportunities for regulation and responsibility By Martin Lycka
Immersive omni-channel gaming means focusing on customer experience, says RSI’s Bruce Caughill By Tom Nightingale
A modern payment solution: Nuvei, Paramount Commerce, Paysafe, Sightline, Worldpay from FIS By Tom Nightingale
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION Inclusivity in gaming By Tyjondah Kerr
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Looking to the future of Canadian gaming The Canadian Gaming Summit’s in-person return assesses monumental changes and where we go from here CANADA’S PREMIER INDUSTRY conference and exhibition for gaming professionals is back with the theme of "Canada – A World of New Opportunities", a fitting slogan considering how much there is to catch up on and to look forward to. From seismic changes to the online betting and gaming scene in Canada to new products and technologies, the evolution of the omni-channel gaming experience, and casinos’ continued recovery, there is no dull day as this industry continues to strive for progression. The educational sessions at the Summit and the articles within this magazine discuss many of those developments. Perhaps above all, the event is a long-awaited reunion for an industry that has been punished and kept apart by the two years of pandemic that have preceded the conference. We are proud to host a wide range of speakers and gaming authorities for a collection of informative and engaging educational sessions. There is also the chance to get reacquainted in person with roundtables, discussions, and networking events. Featured in this magazine are just some of the many fantastic keynote speakers, panelists, and contributors to the Summit. A sincere thank-you from me and everyone at CGB, MediaEdge, and the Canadian Gaming Association to those who contributed. We’d also like to take the time here to thank all our sponsors for the Summit for helping to make this fantastic event possible. From our provincial gaming host, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, to our platinum sponsors Worldpay from FIS and McCarthy Tetrault, all the way to our supporting partners SBC, the Commercial Gaming Association of Ontario, and the Gaming Security Professionals of Canada, you have helped to make this returning event what it is. You can find the full extensive list of our sponsors at the Summit or on the Canadian Gaming Summit website. It goes without saying that the past two years have been challenging for gaming in Canada, but we hope the Summit and this magazine serve as a reiteration of the remarkable resilience that the industry has demonstrated since 2020. The way Canadian gaming has not only survived but thrived through an unprecedentedly diff icult time is proof of the strong leadership and dedication of its leaders, companies, advocates, and employees across the country. In mid-2022 , Canada’s gaming sector is rightly attracting more attention and admiration around the world than ever before, and there are more exciting developments on the horizon. It’s truly an exciting time to be part of this great industry. Tom Nightingale Managing Editor
Canadian Gaming Business | 5
What a difference one year makes BY PAUL BURNS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CANADIAN GAMING ASSOCIATION
IT IS NO UNDERSTATEMENT to say that the past year had been a time of tremendous growth and change for the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA). Having turned our full attention to COVID advocacy for our land-based industry, there was also the matter of successfully legalizing single-event sports betting, and supporting the Government of Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and iGaming Ontario (iGO) with the development and launch of Canada’s first open regulated iGaming (including sports betting) market. That was 2021 in a condensed nutshell. As a result, the CGA has gained more than two dozen new members for a total of 60. We represent a full spectrum of companies from land-based and online casino operators to providers of global premium sports, eSports, and game content and technology, and our membership reflects the diversity of this industry. I am so grateful for the leadership, support, and efforts of the CGA’s Board of Directors, our members, and our stakeholders, for the enormous achievements realized in 2021. And yet, there is still more to do. Since the rollout of our original strategic plan — CGA 2.0 – in spring 2018, where the association laid the groundwork to improve our communication, focus our work, and prepare for long-term sustainability, much has changed. In 2022, we will be updating our strategic plan, as two big pieces of advocacy work – federal sports betting and Ontario’s iGaming market, with COVID-19 thrown in as a surprise – have terminated, and others have taken their place. The Board approved the establishment of additional Industry Committees to invite broader participation in the CGA, having had a successful outcome with the inaugural Regulatory Innovation Committee and its development of national Standards for Cashless Systems as well as national sports betting integrity standards in 2021. 2022 sees the launch of the first sub-committee that will tackle 6 | Summer 2022
necessary AML changes, as well as a Sports Betting Integrity Committee that will work on national education tools that can help keep athletes safe. In April, the CGA returned to ICE and in addition to two panel appearances, we hosted a small industry networking event where representatives from European-based B2B gaming suppliers and B2C operators learned about the benefits of Canada as a place to invest and grow. And, for the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Gaming Summit – Canada’s longest running gaming industry conference – it is fitting that we return to Toronto for our first in-person Summit since Edmonton in 2019. It is shaping up to be our most successful one yet, as we hand over the reins to SBC. SBC will become the new owner of the Canadian Gaming Summit and Canadian Gaming Business, including this magazine, going forward. We are excited to partner with this world-class organization and to work with them over the years to come. With SBC’s global network, our enhanced ability to offer members discounts and increased engagement opportunities (such as networking and conference participation), and access to SBC media platforms, the CGA will be able to better tell the stories of the Canadian gaming industry and to promote the sector. Thanks also to our partner, MediaEdge, for years of tireless work. We are grateful for their dedication to the Summit over the past 17 years. With the responsibility of programming, organizing, and running the Summit behind us, the CGA will now focus on offering different kinds of events – more on that soon. When reflecting on this year, I am proud of the both the quality and the amount of work that was accomplished. The focus going forward will be on our members and on increasing the amount of activities and materials we provide them. These are exciting times in the Canadian gaming industry – what a difference a year makes!
Going all in How can private iGaming operators address gaps and comply with Ontario’s regulations? Connect with our audit and risk consulting professionals to help navigate the expanding iGaming market. home.kpmg/ca/igaming Steve Hills National Lottery and Gaming Leader Partner, Audit KPMG in Canada email@example.com
Joanna Hojjati Partner, Risk Consulting KPMG in Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
©2022 KPMG LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved. The KPMG name and logo are trademarks used under license by the independent member firms of the KPMG global organization. 16359
Canadian Gaming Business | 7
WHERE DOES ONTARIO STAND? Two months in, how is the regulated market stacking up? BY DAVE BRIGGS
8 | Summer 2022
As much as Ontario’s gambling industry has changed in the first two months of an open online market — and, boy, has it changed — it’s nothing compared to what is to come. THAT 18 OPERATORS are already taking bets in Ontario at the time of writing is astonishing. It also proves the province was good to its word to provide a truly open market. Yet, that is just the half of it. At least sixteen more operators are already registered with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and just need to sign an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario before being allowed to go live. That tally is absent a few notable grey-market operators believed to be transitioning to the regulated market that have yet to appear on the AGCO’s list. That means before the year is out, Ontario could be home to more than 35 online gaming operators. That gives consumers a world of choice from major global gaming companies such as BetMGM, Caesars, BetRivers, FanDuel, DraftK ings, bet 365, PointsBet, and many more, down to homegrown Toronto-based eGamingspecialist Rivalry. Some will thrive and some just survive, and it’s the consumers who have the chance to select the winners. And if operators are learning anything about Ontario, it’s the fact the province and its consumers are very different from other jurisdictions. WHERE ARE THE REVENUE NUMBERS?
Two months in and still no off icial f igures have been released. About the only thing we have to go on is a projection from Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk saying the reg ulated gaming industr y w ill generate around $75 million in revenue for the province over three years. But that’s just an educated guess and others place the revenue figures much higher than that. Those expecting American-style revenue reports that come at least monthly and sometimes weekly are getting an education in the measured approach of Canadians.
The Ontario government traditionally releases f igures quarterly. That’s certainly true for how the OLG and other provincial agencies report. So, if that’s the case for an iGaming industry that launched April 4, the best guess is the first quarter will be over at the end of June. That means figures may be out sometime in July. Compounding the lack of transparency is the fact the province was in an election cycle at this writing (election day was June 2). During an election, the government can’t release any numbers and can’t even say when or even if it will. NOT A BUNCH OF RUBES
Despite Ontario’s unique approach, newcomers to the market have been quick to discover its long history as a haven for grey-market operators, combined with a sportssavvy population that approaches 15 million — making it the f ifth-largest jurisdiction across the combination of U.S. and Canada — means consumers are not gaming rubes. It’s not easy to win Ontarians over with so-so apps and lukewarm offers. Many have turned to uniquely Canadian brand ambassadors — Wayne Gretzk y for BetMGM, the Trailer Park Boys for PointsBet, Dan O’Toole for BetR ivers, etc. Meanwhile, some U.S. operators’ occasional failure to recognize such simple things as the fact Ontario is a province and not a state and Canadians have social insurance numbers, not social security numbers have faced the wrath of consumers not happy with operators’ poor understanding of the market. You only have one opportunity to make a f irst impression, and Canadians are a fiercely patriotic bunch. On the betting side, Ontarians expect a plethora of options and an easy sign-up process. That hasn’t been Canadian Gaming Business | 9
sportsbetting the easiest to provide given the government’s stringent responsible gaming, know-your-customer, and geolocation rules. If there were operator stumbles out of the gate — and there were plenty for the first few days — they mostly came in those three areas. The government’s insistence that gaming be contained within the province has led to some other problems. DFS AND ONLINE POKER DOA, SO FAR
Daily Fantasy Sports and online poker have taken big hits, so far, in Ontario’s new regulated market. When the AGCO classified DFS as “sports betting” it meant pools were confined to the province. Same goes for online poker: it’s Ontario-only, and Ontario-only pools are too small to offer attractive prizes. That forced giants FanDuel and DraftKings to get out of the DFS game in Ontario in favour of opening online sportsbooks and casinos. It also has led to very limited adoption of the regulated market by the big online poker operators. The word is that a lobbying effort is trying to get that Ontario-only rule changed for poker and DFS. But, so far, Ontario’s wide-open casino and sports betting market has come at the cost of both DFS and online poker in the province. ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, IT’S BEEN PRETTY SMOOTH
All that said, it appears to have been a relatively smooth launch for most operators.
In a small experiment I conducted about six weeks after launch, I was able to sign up, deposit, and place a small wager with six of eight sportsbooks I tried in an average of about 20 minutes apiece. Since then, I have successfully added two more to my list. I now have accounts with eight sportsbooks. T h at k i nd of choic e i s e s p e c i a l l y b enef ic i a l t o consumers. As professional Ont ar io -based bet tor Rob Pizzola told me: “People do need to see the advantages of being able to shop the best lines. I don’t necessarily think people in Ont ario realize how luck y they are right now in the sense that there are all these sportsbooks available to them versus some U.S. states where there might be only one or two regulated options. If you’re a losing bettor, you w ill lose less by line shopping. A nd if you’re on the edge of being a winning bettor and you can’t get over the hump, just by f inding the best price, you’ve made yourself a winning bettor. If you already w in a nd you’re f inding the best pr ice, you’re going to win more.” To have a sustainable gaming industry, that’s what matters most. Dave Brig gs is the Managing Editor of PlayOntario and previously spent more than 25 years as a writer and editor specialising in horse racing.
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10 | Summer 2022
THE OPERATORS' VIEW Sportsbooks look to make a splash in Ontario's deep pool Ontario’s sports betting field has quickly become saturated. A score of online betting gaming operators from Canada, the U.S., Europe, and beyond have waded into the provincial regulated market since it went live on April 4. More, of course, will follow.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
12 | Summer 2022
Bruce Caughill, RSI Managing Director Canada
Matt Kalish, DraftKings President of North America
Scott Vanderwel, PointsBet Canada CEO
FROM AN OPERATOR’S POINT of view, it has been a long time coming, and many have seen the rewards of the patience and the preparation already. PointsBet Canada and Rush Street Interactive (RSI) brand BetRivers were two who jumped in with both feet from day one, while U.S. giant DraftKings bided its time, eventually going live in the market six weeks after the curtain was raised. It is early days, of course. You don’t need me to tell you that. But, nonetheless, there are conclusions to (tentatively) draw and behaviours to assess. How is the market stacking up? How are brands profiting from the f lurry of partnerships that has characterized the last few months? What can we look to on the horizon? We got together with PointsBet Canada CEO Scott Vander wel, DraftK ings’ President of North A merica Matt Kalish, and RSI’s Managing Director in Canada Bruce Caughill to peer through the looking glass.
WHAT KEY CONCLUSIONS CAN BE DRAWN FROM THE FIRST WEEKS?
Caughill: To put it simply, the response we’ve seen since
launch has really reinforced that there is a huge appetite for regulated online casino and sports betting within the Ontario market. Our new customers tell us that they enjoy the convenience of wagering with us as well as our product and offerings. It's been an affirming experience thus far to see tangibly the demand that we all were conf ident was there in this province. It has really been exciting to see.
Vanderwel: As a truly new player in the market, there's a tremendous opportunity ahead of us, and Ontario bettors
Canadian Gaming Business | 13
industryQ&A have demonstrated a level of sophistication that excites us. We’ve been encouraged by the market’s interest in product differentiators and depth of offering. In particular, we've loved the response around live in-play markets, lightning bets, and the f lexibility of cash-out options. We know Canadians want a trusted, fast experience, and the action we've seen across basketball, hockey, baseball, and tennis in the opening weeks suggests to us that we are resonating with them.
techniques. We want to really showcase what we can offer passionate Ontario sports fans and those who enjoy playing online casino games, hopefully winning them over and exceeding their expectations. We also want to actively promote our resources for responsible gaming a nd other releva nt communit y ef for t s such as our Corporate Social Responsibility program, DraftKings S.E.R.V.E.S. and partnerships and aff iliates are a great way to do that.
K alish : We just see so much potential to g row and evolve our relationship with Ontario sports fans. We did not launch immediately but we believe providing an exceptional service over the long term to customers will win in the long run. We didn’t believe being a first mover on April 4 was a signif icant factor for us because there were so many incumbent grey market operators already operating in Ontario. Additionally, our brand is healthy here: we’ve had signif icant momentum from ser ving many DFS fans since 2012 in the province.
Van der wel : W hen the PointsBet Canada team began
THERE HAS BEEN MUCH FOCUS ON PARTNERSHIPS AND AFFILIATES IN THIS MARKET. WHY IS THAT SO IMPORTANT HERE? Kalish : Since we are in the early stages on the betting
side in Ontario, it’s important to build awareness that our products have launched through various advertising
building for Ontario launch, we placed a major emphasis on curating a brand that is authentically Canadian. Our team on the ground in Toronto has worked hard to secure and begin realizing brand-def ining partnerships, be it national governing bodies like Curling Canada, iconic local entities like MLSE, or unapologetically Canadian brand ambassadors like the Trailer Park Boys. From our perspective, true partnerships allow us to talk to Canadians inside the sport communities that are important to them. We prefer to entertain and converse more directly than screaming at folks via a 30-second commercial.
Caughill: Partnerships and marketing will continue to be really important, given the regulations around sign-up offers and the sheer saturation of the market. We want to help Ontarians become aware of us and building trust and creating awareness through known brands is key to that. It’s all along the lines of the communication
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14 | Summer 2022
industryQ&A piece and the customer ex perience. Canadian sports broadcaster Dan O’Toole is creating content for us that is really entertainment-based, more than just gaming, for example. We also see a great opportunity to be a genderneutral brand and appeal to both men and women, and we try to partner with brands that are consistent with that and leverage that. If you look at the demographics and how things are changing in the long run, we fee; the gender differentiation that has historically been the case within betting is going to level out further. We want to support that as much as we can. LOOKING AHEAD IS A TOUGH GIG GIVEN THE PACE OF CHANCE, BUT WHERE DO YOU SEE US GOING FROM HERE? Vanderwel: As a regulated Canadian industry, we are just
getting started. As a company, we’re just excited to compete. We anticipate many more operators entering the fold in Ontario while other provinces continue to evaluate their respective best paths forward. We welcome that within an open, regulated, and competitive iGaming environment as seen in Ontario. Importantly, we expect the framework in place to create a healthy ecosystem where non-regulated operators are no longer in a position to offer false equivalency to those operators embracing the regulated market. We are about open and fair competition and believe this will ultimately create the right level of innovation in our space.
Caughill: We're excited about the opportunity to market in an
inclusive way for both the sports betting and online gaming side. I just think it's a really exciting time to be in in the industry and not just on the online side. There are going to be so many new and different opportunities that come out of this, and for me personally, to have started in the bricks-andmortar world with Niagara Casinos so long ago and now to be in this role in the online world, it's really an amazing thing to witness and be a part of.
Kalish: We’ve seen so much progress being made across the industry, whether it’s the expansion of legalized sports betting in new territories or sports leagues partnering with operators. This growth and mainstream adoption of legalized sports betting is very encouraging because it enhances the fan experience and provides consumers with protections that do not exist in an unregulated market. We also know that a healthy regulated industry generates meaningful tax revenue for states and territories to fund important priorities, as well as create new jobs. It’s truly exciting to see what’s next for the industry, and I think we’ll see more investment in experiences and rapid product enhancements now that there is a clear, regulated market in Ontario.
Catch Caughill at the “Building an Immersive Omni-channel Gaming Experience” session from 3:05 – 3:50 p.m. on June 8 in Hall C – Session Room 1; and Vanderwel at the “Corruption in Sport: Keeping Athletes Safe” Summit session from 10:10 – 10:55 a.m. on June 9 in Hall C – Session Room 2.
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FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS Ontario’s new iGaming market binds bookies, ball clubs, and broadcasters even tighter BY GEOFF ZOCHODNE
16 | Summer 2022
Canada’s Senate is supposed to be a chamber of sober second thought. However, last year, its members found themselves talking a lot about vice. The object of this discussion was Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act. The legislation was badly wanted by its supporters, including the commissioner of the Canadian Football League. The CFL had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the league to cancel its 2020 season. Singlegame sports betting, and the financial friendships it could bring, were a must. “In our case, this will provide us with an opportunity to partner with industry leaders to reach new fans in more markets, which will drive ticket and merchandise purchases, broadcast ratings, and other engagement with our content,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie told the Senate’s banking, trade, and commerce committee on June 2, 2021, according to a transcript.
C-218 was passed by the Senate later that month, and it came into effect on August 27 of last year, ushering in a new age of sports betting in Canada. Even before then, though, the CFL announced a multi-year partnership with sportsbook operator BetRegal. The league added another partnership later with Genius Sports Ltd., a company that says it “powers the global ecosystem connecting sports, betting and media.” The partnership phenomenon is old hat south of the border, where bookmakers have been buddying with teams, leagues, and land-based casino operators as legal sports betting spreads across the U.S. But Canada only just shrugged off its previous, parlay-heavy way of betting sports. Since April 4, Ontarians have been subjected to a much more American-like experience that has helped bring bookmakers, ball clubs, and other businesses much closer together. In
Canadian Gaming Business | 17
“Partnerships mean sportsbooks get marketing opportunities and legitimacy, and teams, leagues, and broadcasters get an always-interested audience.” addition to more than 20 apps and websites offering sports betting, slots, poker, and table games, the province’s new firstof-its-kind-in-Canada regulatory framework has spurred a fresh round of partnership announcements. The Toronto Blue Jays and theScore Bet trumpeted a 10-year partnership that makes the latter the off icial gaming partner of the baseball team. The owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), has formed similar ties with PointsBet and FanDuel. These are just some high-profile examples, and more partnerships are likely as bookmakers fight to establish themselves in the Ontario market. The partnerships also mean online sportsbooks get marketing opportunities and legitimacy, and teams, leagues, and broadcasters get an audience that can remain interested in even the most boring of games — perhaps there is a point total or player prop that could hit in the closing seconds. “The active pace of these partnership announcements points to a highly competitive market, where customer acquisition and retention will be top of mind for all iGaming operators, whether their brand is well-known or brand new to Ontario players,” lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP wrote in a recent article. Yet it remains to be seen if the f lurry of partnerships will yield results for operators, or if it will only be a windfall for their partners. A 2021 survey sponsored by Deloitte Canada found that just 9.4 per cent of respondents would pick a sportsbook because of the backing of a current or former professional athlete, which could indicate a lack of enthusiasm for official alliances. Still, the Deloitte study, which was released in February of this year, suggested the friendships being formed could be used to win over more casual bettors. “Sports teams can work with their betting partners to build awareness of single-event sports-betting options while promoting responsible gaming behaviour and provide freeto-play games that can educate and engage bettors, attract new customers, and glean valuable customer data for teams and betting partners alike," the Deloitte report stated. Kris Abbott, head of North America for Coolbet, said it can be hard to quantify the return on investment from partnerships. There are, however, some signals that can be sent to potential customers by allying yourself with “trusted” individuals, Abbott said. Coolbet, a division of GAN Ltd., has joined forces with Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse. The promotional partnership was announced on April 7. “It lends credibility to your brand,” Abbott said in an interview. “And it also shows everyone else that, hey, Coolbet is not some kind of fly-by-night operation. They're investing in the big personalities in our country.” 18 | Summer 2022
Sportsbook operators have jousted for airtime as well. FanDuel Group and TSN were quick to announce on April 4 a multi-year tie-up that named FanDuel as the network's official sportsbook partner, beginning in Ontario. Dale Hooper, general manager of FanDuel Canada, said their goal for the TSN relationship is to “augment” the experience for fans. FanDuel brings analytics and insights from its oddsmakers to the table, and TSN can weave those facts and figures into stories viewers can digest. “The viewing ex perience is just richer, it’s deeper, and it's better,” Hooper said in an interview. “It’s a great benef it, because the more people are engaged — in a sport, in a team, or in a player — the longer they're going to watch, and perhaps the more likely they may be to have some fun and put a small wager on one of those games or those players.” Sports fans in Canada, and Ontario especially, are being served a steady diet of sports betting-related television. The ad boom has prompted concerns about increased addiction and what some say can be an annoying viewer experience at times. Operators have tried to get out in front of those concerns, such as by seeking to make responsible gaming a key part of the messaging in Canada. The advertising may also be necessary to pull customers away from the longstanding grey market. The partnerships and their related marketing are not ending anytime soon either. Football season is still to come, which is the busy season for bookmakers. And it is still relatively early days for the opening of the Canadian sports betting industry. There is potential for other provinces to follow Ontario’s lead, giving bookmakers new markets in which to play. “I think as any industry evolves, and the regulations change, and as different provinces open up, I think it's really important that your partnerships evolve,” FanDuel’s Hooper said. Another example of the relative newness is the CFL has yet to play a season with Ontario’s iGaming market in operation. As Ambrosie noted in his state-of-the-league remarks to the media last year, Genius Sports became a minority equit y investor in the league’s commercial business, meaning they now have some financial skin in the threedown game. “They're going to bring basically the entire world of all of their capabilities to the CFL,” the commissioner said. “And we're going to do it as partners.” Geoff Zochodne is a sports betting journalist at Covers and previously spent time writing about business and politics at the Financial Post and QP Briefing.
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SPORTS BETTING CREATES OPPORTUNITIES FOR REGULATION AND RESPONSIBILITY BY MARTIN LYCKA
Around the world, the popularity of legalized sports betting has soared with millions of consumers betting billions of dollars, euros, and other national currencies. It is a dynamic trend that is expected to continue, with more countries, states, and provinces setting up their own protocols for wagering on games, players, teams, and statistics.
ONTARIO IS NO EXCEPTION, as many operators are competing for players and government policymakers examine the best ways to regulate betting markets that heretofore often resided in the shadows. Indeed, as countries have embraced legalized sports betting, they have also embraced the legal and regulatory protocols to ensure consumer protection and financial transparency among gambling operators. These are essential for the long-term success of a business that ultimately relies on consumer confidence that the system is fair, honest, and transparent, and that someone is looking out for the little guy. More recently, the growth of the omni-channel sports betting market provides a wealth of opportunities to 20 | Summer 2022
enhance consumers’ experience. An omni-channel approach prioritizes the consumer’s ability to make choices, and a consistent vision between retail and online gaming allows players to migrate seamlessly between both environments. Not only does the omni-channel ma rket prov ide a satisf y ing user experience, but increased engagement allows for closer monitoring and protection of players. In just a short timeframe, we are seeing the conf luence of incredible technolog y meeting the evolving entertainment needs and preferences of the consumer market. It is a classic tale, yet it is hard to think of another market that has grown so fast, driven and supported by dazzling innovation that seems to get better by the day.
Besides regulatory oversight and stunning technology, there is another factor required for the long-term success of sports betting, whether it is multi-channel or not. That factor is responsibility, and it extends to all parties in the sports betting world. Of course, responsible gambling starts with the consumer, who needs to decide his or her personal limits. Every user of a sports betting platform needs to know how much he or she can play before getting in over their head. But it does not end with the individual customer. Government regulator y aut hor it ie s shou ld en a c t robu st responsible gambling programs as part of their oversight, and to ensure that such programs are funded consistently. It takes much more than a toll-free
helpline for someone to call after they have racked up losses. Responsible gambling extends to operators, too. Operators need to apply their tech wizardry to protecting consumers from going too far. Today’s technology, and the data that operators know about their customers, can be harnessed to track customer behaviour, to spot patterns of excess, to intervene when limits are approached, and to suspend access to the operator platform when warranted. Un d e r i t s n a s c e n t A d v a n c e d Responsibilit y and Care prog ram ( A R C ), E n t a i n h a s m o n i t o r e d customers using markers of protection such as frequency of play, changes in spend patterns, and length of time of online play. The new markers being tested include additional checks on fluctuations in stake levels, erratic play during a single session, and signs that a player might be chasing losses. A nd, beyond such amazing technology, operators need to provide personal resources to consumers, to provide education awareness – and even one-on-one, personal counselling – to prevent losses that affect individuals, families, businesses, and communities. E nt a i n h a s t a k e n t h e l e a d i n responsible gambling, reaching out to
partners, trade associations, regulators, and policymakers worldwide to go beyond the minimum in protecting consumers. For example, Entain this year joined former Toronto Raptor Charles Oakley for his ongoing OakOut Hunger tour of major cities. OakOut Hunger reaches out to underser ved, disadvantaged c o m mu n it i e s i n u r b a n c ent r e s , providing free meals often ser ved personally by Oakley himself. Oakley’s team also serve the same audiences with positive guidance and education about avoiding alcohol and substance abuse. And now, Oakley includes an important message about responsible gambling to prevent at-risk youth from developing risky habits that could have serious short-term and long-term consequences. A s a sponsor of the Oa k Out c a mpa ig n, E nt a i n prov ides b ot h funding and expertise in preventing and mitigating problem gambling to the Oak Out Hunger initiative. It means that, for the f irst time, education in responsible gambling sits along side other valuable and wor t hwh ile com mu n it y ser v ices prov ided by t he Ch a rles Oa k ley Foundation, including anti-addiction and education programs.
These are just a few of the many creative initiatives that help to protect bet ting customers, a nd Ent ain is ju s t one of m a n y or g a n i z at ion s advocating for these. A nd they are evidence of a core business strategy: a business that does not look after its customers will not be around long if its business model is unsustainable or if customers do not trust the integrity and safeguards of the online betting platforms. It is really in the best long-ter m interest of operators, regulators, and consumers to ensure that responsible gambling shares the priorit y with oversight and technolog y as sports betting markets evolve. Ontarians deserve no less. Mar tin Lycka i s SV P for A m er i can Regulator y Af fairs & Responsible Gambling at Entain, which operates in the U.S. through BetMGM, jointly owned with MGM Resorts International. Catch him at the “A Brave New World Has Come to Ontario” Summit session from 3:0 0 - 3:50 p.m. on June 7 in Room 205B and at the “Responsible G a m b l i n g: K e e p i n g Pa c e w i t h t h e Convergence of Gaming” session from 11:10 – 11:55 a.m. on June 8 in Hall C – Session Room 2. Canadian Gaming Business | 21
IMMERSIVE OMNI-CHANNEL GAMING MEANS FOCUSING ON CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE BY TOM NIGHTINGALE
Rush Street Interactive’s Bruce Caughill explains why seeing multi-channel operations as part of wider lens – and ensuring land-based casinos remain at the table – is the key to success
22 | Summer 2022
IN THE WORLD OF GAMING’S increased convergence between traditional and emerging gaming methods, building an immersive omni-channel experience is becoming a priority for operators. Adapting land-based content for online use will surely continue to be one of the driving forces behind casinos enjoying strong engagement with new and existing players, just as ensuring synergy with bricks-and-mortar casinos will be an important avenue for those online operators in Ontario’s regulated market. Rush Street Interactive (RSI) is one major gaming operator that has long had a foot in all camps. It provides an omnichannel platform for land-based sportsbooks and social gaming at its casinos in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York State, and Indiana, runs a fully integrated online gaming sportsbook, and went live in Ontario’s new market with its BetRivers-branded sportsbook in April. Bruce Caughill, RSI’s Managing Director in Canada, notes that providing a form of omni-channel experience has long been a core pillar for the company. “Our two largest shareholders and co-founders, Neil Bluhm and Greg Carlin, were part of the company that built and ran Niagara Casinos in Ontario and also part of the bricks-and-mortar side of Rush Street Gaming,” he tells CGB. “From day one, it has always been a primary focus to make sure online gaming is implemented in a way that complements land-based gaming. We really do have a foot firmly in both camps, and I know there are a lot of landbased operators that also look at it that way.”
Spreading your bets, so to speak, across various channels may seem to many like a no-brainer in the current gaming and societal climate. To not pursue such an avenue, one could reasonably argue, would be to close off valuable and potentially highly profitable pathways, narrow your customer base, and risk falling behind in what has quickly become a hugely saturated field. As Caughill puts it, in an ideal world where an operator has the full data and the right commercial structure and regulatory framework, it’s hard to argue it is not a great thing. But just how practical will running a multi-channel operation be for Ontario’s score of brands in a market that is still finding its feet on the regulatory side? Caughill is wary. “What an omni-channel strategy actually looks like depends a great deal on the situation an operator finds themselves in,” he notes. “Within the regulatory framework, for example, you've got transactions going on in different areas and different AML reporting accountabilities. In Ontario, we've got different tax rates for online versus landbased gaming transactions – it's a different structure, two different conductors and managers. The concept itself is hard to argue against and is certainly something that operators need to consider, but the full omni-channel experience may not be open or available to every operator.” CUSTOMER IS KING
That may be true, but what is available to every operator is the toolkit to create a world-class customer experience,
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Canadian Gaming Business 2022-05-28 1:37 AM | 23
interview whether that is full omni-channel or not. After all, customer is king. RSI knows all about this, having won the EGR North American Award for customer service operator of the year three years in a row, among other honours. Caughill stresses that while omnichannel considerations naturally form part of their focus on customer experience, it’s the broader player-facing envelope that is their priority. “A world-class customer experience needs world-class customer service, so having that available and meaningful consistently is crucial,” he says. “On the game front, it's really about variety and trusted brands and being quick to market. But communication is a key point, too. It's not just transactional, it's community-based and communication. “For instance, we have a robust piece of our offering which helps bring people together to talk about issues and lots of community building initiatives. Not all that lives and dies on the omni-channel concept; much of it can be done outside that or complementary to it. The customer experience piece really needs to stand on its own and not just be driven by whether you have an omni-channel operation.” Caughill himself brought invaluable experience to RSI’s Canadian leadership team when he joined in late March, just prior to Ontario’s regulated online gaming and betting market getting off the ground. He had previously served as the Chief Legal Officer of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and before that spent around two decades with Niagara Casinos on the bricks-and-mortar side.
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“I don't think omni-channel is a major threat to land-based casinos; there are real opportunities that weren't there before.” That experience on the land-based side of things has taught him more than a thing or two about integrating operations. “It’s been interesting for me to have a land-based and regulatory background before coming into the digital operational world, to see how important clicks are,” he notes. “It’s all about reducing friction points. Even small things can make a big difference.”
“There is a pretty significant demographic that will never go online,” concludes Caughill. “Online operators don't provide the sort of amenities that bricks-and-mortar casinos do. Online players being able to access those amenities at a land-based location is a huge thing. There is a real role for these places to play, and I would say that any top-class omnichannel operation must recognize that.”
LAND-BASED NOT LEFT BEHIND
Catch Caughill as a panelist at the “Building an Immersive Omni-channel Gaming Experience” Summit session alongside moderator Thomas Castleberry of Aristocrat and Mohegan Digital’s Rich Roberts from 3:05 – 3:50 p.m. on June 8 in Hall C – Session Room 1.
One would have been forgiven for this slipping the mind amid everything that has been happening on the digital front of Canadian gaming through the pandemic and particularly in the early months of 2022, but gaming is not just done on websites or mobile apps. Bricks-and-mortar gaming remains a cornerstone of the industry and ensuring that it remains a key piece is vital. Caughill, of course, has an affinity for the land-based side of things after his longtime service with Niagara Casinos, and he stresses that casinos have been showing strong growth through what has been at least a decade and a half of grey-market digital gaming activity in Ontario prior to the province’s overhaul. While in Ontario, online gaming and betting has not come out of the blue, what was not there in yesteryear and is there today is the huge potential for land-based operators to partner with online operators. Until now, grey-market online brands were out of bounds for any land-based operator. “You couldn’t be in that world of partnerships or gaming and expect to be registered as a land-based casino in Ontario,” Caughill, the former AGCO legal executive, emphasizes. “Now, with those operators and more coming into regulation, casinos have access to this other vertical of business and the opportunity to partner and bring in revenue on that front with a new demographic. I don't think omnichannel and digital gaming is a major threat to land-based casinos; I think there are real opportunities that weren't there before in terms of negotiating partnerships and securing market access. It should only be seen as an opportunity for land-based casinos, as long as they are focused on realizing that opportunity.” Ultimately, one of the keys to the omni-channel approach is to recognize that as digital gaming keeps growing and evolving, there will always be people wanting to walk into a facility. There is a parallel to be drawn with restaurants, perhaps – takeout and off-premises consumption has boomed during the pandemic, but people still want to dine in.
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Canadian Gaming Business | 25
A MODERN PAYMENT SOLUTION Today’s gamer wants to pay wherever they want, whenever they want, and however they want, and keeping pace with that demand – as well as pre-empting the emerging trends and where consumer desire may go next – is a key pathway on the road to success.
Neil Erlick, Chief Corporate Development Officer at Nuvei
Greg Kirstein, VP of Business Development, North America iGaming at Paysafe
This interview has been edited for length and clarity 26 | Summer 2022
Kristi Lewis, Director of Marketing at Paramount Commerce
Alex MorganMoodie, Senior Director of Vertical Growth at Worldpay from FIS
Tamara Tenenbaum, SVP of Business Development and Managing Director of Canada at Sightline
HOW CAN GAMING OPERATORS meet the demands of the modern consumer and utilize the tools that are out there to ensure they rise to the challenge? These interviews with Greg Kirstein, VP of Business Development, North America iGaming at Paysafe; Alex MorganMoodie, Senior Director of Vertical Growth at Worldpay from FIS; Kristi Lewis, Director of Marketing at Paramount Commerce; Neil Erlick, Chief Corporate Development Officer and Nuvei; and Tamara Tenenbaum, SVP of Business Development and Managing Director of Canada at Sightline Payments have been edited for length and clarity. GIVEN GAMING’S INCREASED CONVERGENCE TOWARDS AN OMNI-CHANNEL APPROACH, WHAT ARE THE KEY TRENDS IN PAYMENTS FOR THE INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW?
Kirstein: Consumers’ online pay ment preferences are increasingly diverse, w ith four in 10 tr y ing a new payment online method during the pandemic, according to our research. Credit cards remain k ing online in Canada followed by debit cards, but APMs, digital wallet, and eCash have been gaining traction. To avoid multiple separate integrations, payment providers have developed APIs that allow operators to plug into a comprehensive range of payment methods through a single, streamlined integration. Also, enabling consumers to move money seamlessly while visiting brick-and-mortar casinos is an important evolving innovation.
Morgan-Moodie: Customers want increasingly seamless
experiences. The sign-up/deposit user journey has traditionally been one of the most fraught to optimize. The challenge of omni-channel is that customers increasingly don’t appreciate the dividing line between online and brick-and-mortar, and they expect to be able to interact seamlessly between the two. We’re seeing the emergence of some fantastic digital wallet solutions that enable precisely that; the challenge is to ensure the technology enables payments in multiple ways and formats, from open banking to cryptocurrency, whilst further reducing friction using biometrics for authentication and identification.
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Canadian Gaming Business | 27
industryQ&A Lewis: Tokenization of sensitive payment information is critical for operators to enable consumers to move seamlessly from one channel to another. Instant payments will also be essential as a consumer’s transactions will need to be confirmed and available across platforms in real-time.
WHAT PAYMENTS-RELATED CHALLENGES DOES CANADIAN GAMING’S NEW ERA THROW UP? Kirstein: As well as the challenges of offering a comprehensive
range of payment methods, another challenge is ensuring players’ payment experience is frictionless for both deposits and payouts. When players cash out, they want to be able to receive payouts in real-time direct into their bank accounts or digital wallet. This can impact a customer’s perception of a particular iGaming brand – our research found that quick payout was the top factor for bettors when selecting a sportsbook, prioritized over odds, sports markets, bonuses, and even brand reputation.
Erlick: Players simply are not prepared to wait hours for a payout
request to be settled anymore. So near-instant payment methods that enable guaranteed seamless transactions are going to be increasingly popular with players, and therefore operators. Also, operators have been facing some payments-related challenges when it comes to card acceptance rates issued by the major financial institutions in the opening weeks of the newly-regulated market, so alternative methods are vital.
Morgan-Moodie: Security is a big one. Customers have a
greater awareness now of privacy and security online than perhaps at any point previously, and at the same time operators are facing down ever more sophisticated fraud threats. Utilizing biometric authentication can provide assurances but is only part of the solution. We are in the midst of the Big Data revolution and whilst that can cause some scepticism from customers, not all data utilization is data exploitation! Leveraging AI learning to manage fraud means operators can be secure in the knowledge they are doing everything they can to manage threats to their business and their brand, whilst at the same protecting their customers’ privacy and wallets.
Tenenbaum: Canadian banking is very different from American
banking, and several operators are finding that out through trial-and-error. Different card networks provide hurdles for operators to overcome, like the prevalence of INTERAC, which doesn’t exist in the U.S., the ability to know your customers without using their SIN as it is not used in the same way as the US SSN, and new banking partners.
Lewis: Low credit card acceptance rates may be tough for some Canadian gaming operators to navigate. Two of the major five banks are not accepting credit card payments, while another only accepts deposits via credit card. For banks that accept credit card, cash advance fees can be an unpleasant surprise for consumers. For operators to be successful in Canada, it’s recommended to offer a bank-account-based payment option to overcome low acceptance rates. 28 | Summer 2022
HOW CAN OPERATORS TAILOR THEIR PAYMENT OFFERINGS AND DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES TO GIVE THEMSELVES AN EDGE WHILE PROVIDING STRONG ROI? Tenenbaum: Firstly, operators must have a robust payment stack with a variety of funding and withdrawal methods. Customers expect more than funding via bank transfer, debit, and credit cards – they expect the same funding methods they have in their daily lives like PayPal, peerto-peer networks, prepaid debit cards like Play+, realtime payments, and even cryptocurrency. Erlick: Unlocking the value of payments is increasingly
important to gaming operators, and they are increasingly moving away from one-size-fits-all approach to payments in preference of a customized payment solution tailored to their specific needs to unlock their full potential.
Kirstein: It’s essential not to omit any player segment’s
preferences. For example, our research revealed that high-stakes or V IP players favour digital wallets over credit and debit cards, while some cash-inclined bettors will likely prefer brands with an eCash solution in the cashier. Therefore, any brand without a digital wallet or eCash will likely struggle to convert these two segments. Also, the affiliate channel has a very strong ROI, given that operators only pay affiliates for converted players. A mature affiliate program drives up to 30 per cent of an iGaming brand’s player acquisitions, according to data from our Income Access business unit. But operators also need to diversify to include channels with lower ROI such as programmatic and direct or targeted media buys with high-traffic websites as well as paid social and PPC.
Morgan-Moodie: After that, build smart UX and leverage tokenization technologies to ensure you can anticipate the customers’ needs in real time, including the need for payouts when requested, Layer on a sophisticated loyalty scheme that feels authentic to the individual and is fun to participate in, and operators focused in these areas should see strong ROI. Lewis: Finally, operators who put a strong emphasis on not just payment solutions but targeted communication strategies will have a leg up on the competition. Operators who meet all the regulator y marketing requirements and target communications by region will have a strong advantage in attracting consumers. Being intentional about payments and marketing strategies is crucial in growing your iGaming business and providing strong ROI.
Cat ch Morgan - Moodie, Erli ck, and Tenenbaum in the Plenary Roundtable Discussion: “Payments – New Trends & Technologies” from 12:05 – 12:50 p.m. on June 8 in Hall C – Main Stage; and Kirstein at “T he New Canadian Playing Field: Payments, Product & Maximizing Customer Conversions” Summit session from 11:05 – 11:50 a.m. on June 9 in Hall C – Session Room 2.
Canadian Gaming Business | 29
BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE GAMING INDUSTRY Canada's gaming evolution creates more RG challenges
The Canadian Gaming Summit's 25th anniversary theme of Canada - A World of New Opportunities could not be more relevant to Ontario as a jurisdiction with a newly regulated market THE LONG-AWAITED RETURN of in-person conferences affords delegates and panelists the chance to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate on several important topics the industry is facing. One such topic is that of building a sustainable industry. On June 9, 2022, RGC’s Shelley White will moderate a 30 | Summer 2022
panel with SBC’s Sue Schneider and Kindred Group’s Liv Biesmans which will unpack what this means in an industry that is undergoing profound disruption and share the latest trends with real world examples. Through a global lens, ex pert panelists will share recommendations for the Ontario and Canadian market on
responsiblegambling what a sustainable industry could look like into the future. Responsible gambling is increasingly becoming a priority for senior leadership. We are seeing it being integrated into core operations all over the world. No longer is it just a concept that lives in a boardroom and the C-suite, but rather a key strategy that can drive the culture of an organization. Leaders recognize that sustainabilit y is driven by prioritizing customer harm prevention, social responsibility, as well as the bottom line. But is there a strong business case for RG? New and emerging markets may have concerns that RG will negatively impact the bottom line, but industry leaders participating in this panel will provide examples of how their own organizations are using responsible gambling strategies as a tool for business growth and reputation management. Kindred Group’s ambitious “Journey to Zero” model for creating long-term sustainable growth and profitability will illustrate the inherent value of responsible gambling, harm prevention, and consumer protections, while SBC’s publications and events have placed a premium on including responsible gambling in their content. The importance of non-financial factors as indicators of growth are also on the rise. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are an integral part of the sustainability movement. The industry and the broader society are correlated; directly and indirectly linked. In recent years, social justice movements have spurred us all to re-evaluate priorities and social conventions and question the foundations of various institutions. The same
momentum has carried over into the industry. How does a robust equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy contribute to building a sustainable industry? What role, if any, does environmental social governance (ESG) play in this overall strategy? RG leaders know that keeping pace not only with technology and innovation but social trends leads to a stronger organizational culture and brand reputation. Through this session, delegates will understand the ways in which organizational culture is changing and how it directly affects the sustainability of the industry. The insights and examples of how organizations are incorporating these concepts into the business model will be explored in-depth. But what about the future forecast of RG, the value of organizational culture and sustainability? Success will look different for each jurisdiction as mature and emerging markets often have different priorities. The industry has gone through many changes over the last couple of years. And this isn’t a bad thing. Through disruption and challenges come opportunities to challenge current practices and discover innovative and better approaches to create a more sustainable industry. This session will explore the trends that industry leaders are embracing to support financial and reputational well-being and longevity. Catch RGC CEO Shelley White at the ”Building a Sustainable Industry” Summit session from 1:45 – 2:30 p.m. on June 9 in Hall C.
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INCLUSIVITY IN GAMING Diversity is more than just a buzzword BY TYJONDAH KERR
For the gaming industry to be more inclusive, we need to look at it from three aspects: a player lens (external), an employee lens (internal), and that intersection of player/employee interaction. WE NEED TO KNOW who our players are and how they play to keep them at our sites and platforms; and we need to make sure our employees know they are valued in our organizations and have a sense of belonging, and to ensure we know who they are and how to retain them. Then, when our employees are interacting with our players, the question becomes: does each side have the emotional intelligence and 32 | Summer 2022
cultural competency to handle conf lict with the other to resolve concerns? Great results happen when we work to build an inclusive culture. We do this through curiosity and empathy. Curious empathy! What is that? Well, it’s about being brave enough to ask the questions to which we don’t know the answers while also
diversityandinclusion understanding how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to be more knowledgeable about their lived experiences. That knowledge will help you figure out the diversity of your customers and employees and understand the impacts and barriers for them with your organization. Getting demographic data such as race and ethnicity, disability, gender, and others about your players and employees is extremely important to navigate the equity, diversity, and inclusion space. Data gives you an evidence-based approach to drive the gaming industry toward building inclusive cultures. The data can show you gaps, and it is by closing these gaps that you will not only help sustain the success in this industry, but drive inclusion for the long term. For example, in our brick-and-mortar facilities, we can assess how we are serving our customers across those differences? W hat is the level of cultural competency being passed from our employees to our customers? Cultural difference can be a barrier, so how are we giving our employees the tools to be culturally competent in order for us to eliminate conf lict on the gaming f loor? A re we teaching our employees empathy? A humancentric approach is what will keep your players loyal to your facilities and make sure you are equipping your employees with the right tools, such as emotional intelligence. Consider, also, the future of gaming. The maturing and future generations will only work and play at organisations that align with their social values. Well-being is a high priority
for them, so evaluate the key questions. Is your environment a f lexible one? Do your benefits offer programs based on individuals’ needs? How are you evolving your brand to show them that you are socially responsible? It is such a competitive market for attracting talent and players. If you are feeling the pinch, work on an inclusivity strategy! If you are wondering where to start, I’d suggest collecting the evidence in a safe way. Listen to what your employees and your players are telling you. Then, be authentic in your response and make changes. This not the time to be performative; this is the time to be thought leaders in the space and change the game in gaming. Create spaces where employees can be their best. That can be as simple as having a gender-neutral washroom or having a courageous conversation on race or accessibility. Expanding your player base will mean attracting more folks to your brand. The more inclusive you can be, the more people will be inclined to work and play with you. It does not have to be complicated. Start the work and the rest will come. I have been in this industry for over 25 years and my colleagues and mentors have been innovative thoughtful leaders. Now, we must push a little harder to ensure that inclusivity is always top of mind. Tyjondah Kerr is the Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Catch her at the “Creating a More Inclusive Gaming Industry” Summit session in Room 205B from 11:05 – 11:50 a.m. on June 9.
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Canadian Gaming Business | 33
REIMAGINING CASINO FLOOR DESIGN 34 | Summer 2022
BY PERRY COLPITTS
The past two years have been a challenging time for the gaming industry in Canada. In addition to the constant opening and closing of casinos that accompanied the surges and lulls of the virus, other regulations have drastically changed how we do business: from capacity limits on gaming floors, to social distancing requirements limiting the number of machines that can be turned on at a time, to the changes in the directional flow for patrons, just to name a few. PAINTING ARROWS ON f loors, using plexiglass dividers and adopting the “every other machine on” approach emerged as efficient short-term solutions that helped keep gaming f loors open and compliant as regulations ebbed and f lowed across the country. But ever yone i n t he i ndust r y k now s t h at t hese solutions are not sustainable in the long-term, and that we are facing an adapt-or-die moment that will def ine the future of our industry for years to come. This may seem like a grim scenario, but it doesn’t have to be. Canada’s gaming industry is poised to thrive in this changing context as long as it does what it always has: putting player experience and safety at the centre of their plans for a post-COVID-19 world. This means asking ourselves tough questions. Will the “cram them in” placement of gaming machines make sense for our customers moving forward? Or will offering an acceptable level of social distancing be the norm? Can we adapt our gaming f loor designs using existing products? Or should we innovate in the creating of new products that allow us to imagine the casino f loors of the future? Some casinos in Canada are ahead of the cur ve in answering these questions. These casinos are using innovative thinking and lessons learned from the past two years to reimagine gaming f loor design. A recent conversation with a customer from one of these casinos revealed one of the ways in which they are adapting and innovating in this changing context. Upon seeing their order, I called them to ask if something was wrong: “There seems to be an unusually large number of carousels on this order. Is this correct?” I asked. And her response was clear: “You bet there is!” As she ex plained, the addition of carousels on the gaming f loor adds to the level of player comfort and safety while reducing the risk of “every other machine on” should restrictions ever resurface. It also helps solve
an issue that according to her, had been identified even before COVID-19 emerged: a desire for players to have a bit more space between them. The re-emergence of carousels isn’t the only way our industry is adapting to current trends in order to make casino f loors more comfortable and safer for players. For years, the industry standard for slot base width was 28 inches. This remained unchanged for decades — until now. Today, as slot machine manufacturers continuing to increase the overall size of the cabinet, slot base manufacturers are having to adapt to avoid players from coming even closer together. Recent slot base design has increased the slot base width to 32 inches. Adding this innovative design to a gaming f loor, is another way our industry can adapt to changing trends and allow for additional space bet ween cabinets, providing greater social distancing for the player. These are important changes but aren’t the only ones we will have to make. Even as we emerge from the largest disruption in the histor y of gaming, new challenges continue to emerge: the increasing popularity of online g aming and the leg alization of spor ts bet ting w ill continue disrupting the industry. Supply chain issues, HR challenges, increased logistics costs, and new product delivery delays, are also disrupting factors to which we will all have to adapt. But the past two years have taught us that our industry is resilient, and that those of us willing to innovate and adapt will continue to survive and thrive in this context — as long as we never forget that our players’ comfort and safety is the key to our success. Perry Colpitts is the founder and president of Perco Ventures. Based in Moncton, NB, he has over 15 years of experience as a manufacturer's representative and distributor in the Canadian gaming industry. Canadian Gaming Business | 35
A new entrant to the industry born in 2020, Casino Days intends to expand its footprint by launching in Ontario sooner rather than later.
CEO ROSS PARKHILL, an iGaming veteran and a familiar face in the industry, says the casino concept was created by gamblers for gamblers.“It’s a ver y competitive marketplace these days and players expect a level of experience they f ind in other industries,” says Parkhill. “They’re used to products like Facebook, Netf lix, or Airbnb, which have set the standard in terms of customer experience, and our founders felt there was much we could offer in the space! Significant effort was dedicated to improving the basic things that players take for granted but can be frustrating to deal with, such as a limited option of payment methods, slow loading sites, and difficulty in finding players’ favourite slot despite it being part of the offering of the casino. Now 4,000 games strong, Casino Days has heavily invested in player
36 | Summer 2022
experience and with it proprietary software that allows us to add new features in an agile way. “We want to cover the basics and offer relevant content that our players feel excited to engage with,” says Parkhill. “Our aim is to make sure we have lots of happy players who like the site and can’t quite put the finger on why!” Trust is also high on the agenda for the brand.
“We like to keep things simple,” Parkhill continues. “As a company, we want our team to feel appreciated, have high levels of transparency, and ensure people have fun along the way. It can be quite a tough and demanding industry at times, but it’s still one of the most exciting and enjoyable to be involved in. We recognise the importance of our company embracing that.” B oi l i n g dow n C a si no D ay s’ mission statement, Parkhill says that the brand and the team have a clear goal of enhancing the customer experience and player satisfaction. “We know what we want Casino Days to stand for with our players,” he concludes. “We aim to create an enjoyable and safe environment for those who like to play casino for entertainment. We intend to ensure players know they can trust us, with the basics like simple and fair terms and conditions, easy-tofind information with responsible gambling tools available to them, quick and efficient pay-outs, and all the other pieces. “And, of course, we want to make sure the casino product and games we offer make it easy to achieve the goal the players have visiting our site in the first place – to have fun.”
RELAX GAMING Relax Gaming is a leading supplier and aggregator of award-winning content including slots, jackpots, bingo, and poker. Founded in 2010 with the goal of simplifying B2B content delivery for the modern iGaming landscape, Relax revolutionized business practices and brought about a streamlined way of working. With integrity at its core and differentiation in its DNA, the company grew from strength to strength and stretched this goal further, propelling the aggregation integration process forward with Relax Apex® and driving differentiation through each of its casino verticals. STRIVING TO CONTINUALLY push boundaries and reinvigorate the market with unique offerings, Relax not only builds its own innovative products but supports other unique studios via its aggregation programs: Powered By Relax (commercially independent partners) and Silver Bullet (commercially represented partners). Its selective process means that each individual studio that joins their roster is immensely talented, reliable, and geographically located to benefit its operators. By providing its casino clients with games from all over the world, Relax Gaming provides them with localized content for their international player base. Today, Relax Gaming delivers over 3,000 games from more than 75 hand-picked studios to 650+ operator brands at unrivaled speed. A one-time integration process through the Relax Apex framework provides regulatory-coherent, quality-assured content in days rather than weeks, cutting labour and processing time by more than half. Regulated markets are also at the heart of its growth strategy, with licenses held in multiple jurisdictions including: the Malta Gaming Authority, the Gibraltar Licensing Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, the Romanian National
Gaming Office (ONJN), and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). In addition to licensed operations, Relax Gaming fully supports regulated markets such as Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Italy, with Spain and Colombia joining soon. With business simplicity and collaboration central to its ethos, its rapid and sustained expansion has been conceived in order to deliver unparalleled global reach. Since acquiring its Ontario registration early in 2022, Relax offers its full award-winning casino portfolio as well as those of 14 of its studio partners so far. With a roadmap loaded with varied RTP content that is certified for Ontario, the sky's the limit for Canadian operators. Relax Gaming is currently live with five operators in the country, namely: BetMGM, Entain, LeoVegas, Royal Panda, and CoolBet - and many more in the pipeline. The qualities of technical excellence, market-leading content, and rapid market growth combine to create fruitful foundations for growth and innovation. Driven by a need for differentiation, Relax Gaming provides end-to-end service with quality at its core. Canadian Gaming Business | 37
CANADA CALLING FOR RELAX GAMING BY ALEXIA SMILOVIC RØNDE
Ontario has had an incredible journey to reach this regulatory point, becoming one of the most promising markets in the whole of North America. The board is now set for earlyadopting B2B companies to attain considerable market share, with a team sheet of big names now operating or pursuing licenses and set to play a major part in introducing Europe’s most prominent studios to the market. THIS IS NO SMALL ADVANTAGE, as Ontario will comfortably rival the big g est U. S. st at es a s it reaches maturity. Key to this progress will b e t he AG C O ’s sub st a nt i a l a nd competitive regulatory model, which is more reminiscent of European regulation than it is of any framework we have seen in North America to date. Not on l y do e s t h i s b o de wel l for European legacy suppliers and operators in Ontario, but it sets a g o o d ex a mple for neig hb ou r i n g 38 | Summer 2022
provinces, which may be likely to follow suit once the jurisdiction’s potential and lucrativeness become evident. Particularly positive is that, unlike in regulated U.S. markets, it is not only local land-based operators that can be g ranted licenses, meaning there is not an arbitrary cap on the number that can be issued. The jurisdiction has also decided not to put a restriction on brands or skins for each operator, making a great deal of diversity available to
players. What this means is that we effectively have a blank slate for the industr y to be market-makers, as, with the monopoly of the Ontario Lotter y and Gaming Corporation over, the landscape is completely open. Under the new regulation, I have no doubt that we are going to see a major play from pure Canadian companies as well as U.S. operators quickly expanding across the borders in a race w ith their Europea n counterparts. Particularly attractive
is the very reasonable $100,000 annual license fee and 20 per cent tax rate – compared to New York, there is quite a substantial difference. This will all serve to make Ontario an ultra-competitive landscape, which we at Relax Gaming believe will attract a huge number of operators. Adding to this promise is the fact that the AGCO’s technical standards are centred around responsible gambling requirements. As a result, we are looking at an incredibly safe environment for players – which is one that could attract many risk-averse brands north of the border.
Canada’s gaming industry is evolving. Are you ready?
RELAX IN NORTH AMERICA
We are proud to say that Relax Gaming was live with the market’s key operators on Ontario’s April 4 opening day, and we are actively preparing upcoming go-live dates with operators awaiting imminent registration approval. We were also one of the first to secure B2B registration, which has allowed our Silver Bullet and Powered By Relax aggregation partners to benefit from these sheltering conditions, making for a great suite of casino content on top of our award-winning games portfolio. Naturally, most would say the U.S. is the next logical step for Relax Gaming. This is especially the case given the difficulty that other Canadian provinces are not likely to be as fast to open a regulated market as Ontario has been. In the meantime, however, the province represents a unique opportunity for Relax Gaming to smoothly set foot in North America and steadily grow our extensive global distribution network there. Given how our products have performed in Europe’s more mature markets, we expect the eventual transition into the U.S. to go relatively smoothly. With a great deal of cultural crossover between the U.S. and Europe, we will naturally optimise our already formidable offering to appeal to a U.S. audience by doing so in Ontario. DRIVING DIFFERENTIATION – PLENTY OF WORK TO BE DONE
Of course, the situation is not without its challenges. No newly reg ulated market promises to be entirely straightfor ward. Noteworthy is the fact that the landbased incumbents are fiercely lobbying against any further regulatory precedent, which is to be expected. However, if Ontario succeeds in establishing a fully controlled diverse and dynamic gaming landscape, it will set an undeniable precedent that will be difficult for other provinces to ignore. We at Relax Gaming and our partners are committed to contributing to that initial success. That being said, Canada’s other provinces are either tied with exclusive operator models or may not have the same freedom to explore the benef its of a multiple licensing compared with a single one – it will take time, and the incentive to do so will very much depend on the success achieved in Ontario. It is early days, but the initial signs are that this is the beginning of a truly seismic iGaming market. There are some wrinkles to be ironed out, but the sheer potential of this jurisdiction will make the effort well worth the while. Alexia Smilovic Rønde is Chief Regulatory Officer at Relax Gaming and boasts 11 years’ experience in the online gaming industry, combining regulatory, compliance, product, operations, and business expertise across worldwide jurisdictions.
The Aird & Berlis Gaming Group is a highly-experienced, multi-disciplinary team that provides specialized and sophisticated legal services to clients in the gaming industry. We advise clients in Canada and internationally on corporate, commercial, licensing, compliance, M&A, structuring, tax and all other pertinent legal areas. Peter K. Czegledy | Group Chair | 416.865.7749 | email@example.com
Canadian Gaming Business | 39
PARAMOUNT COMMERCE Paramount Commerce was founded by creative thinkers who understood that payment technology would play a crucial role as the internet took the world by storm, with a vision to simplify payments by supplying innovative and seamless online payment solutions for consumers around the world. IN THE PURSUIT to simplify payments, the Paramount Commerce team launched their first payment product in the early 2000s which allowed consumers to make online purchases directly from their bank account without the need to fund an e-wallet – something that had never been done before in North America. Since going live with its first product, Paramount Commerce’s payment solutions have grown significantly and processed over $50 billion in volume. The team has continued to deliver industry firsts across the globe, such as processing the first regulated sports betting payment in the U.S. Today, Paramount Commerce has become a leading bankaccount-based payments provider in the iGaming and sports betting industries. To meet the growing demand, Paramount Commerce has set up offices in Canada, the UK, and Malta to better accommodate its clients. With over 15 years of experience in providing innovative payment solutions, we are truly proud to offer best-in-class experience, seamless integration, tools to meet regulatory requirements, and a robust risk-management system that benefits consumers and operators. In short, Paramount Commerce is a go-to bank-account-based payments provider for the international iGaming and sports betting operators. SOLUTIONS FOR CANADIANS
With roots in Canada, our team knows which payment solutions Canadians prefer. When Ontario’s iGaming market went live in April 2022, we were ready with a suite of products that meet the requirements of Canadian consumers. We have done a lot of work to ensure our solutions provide both merchants and consumers with the best payment experience. Our suite of products consists of bank account-based payment solutions such as INTERAC, iDebit, and INSTADEBIT with live bank connections to 99 per cent of Canadian bank accounts. Our solutions are Canadian staples, with INTERAC known as one of the most trusted financial service brands in Canada for over 35 years. Repeat consumers benefit from one-click deposits, while 40 | Summer 2022
verified payment account ownership provides secure and quick payouts. Industry-leading conversion rates make our solutions a must-have for every cashier. Our payment solutions meet all of Ontario’s regulatory requirements. Features such as bank account ownership checks and consumer location features add a layer to compliance tools for operators. Working with an industry insider that helped create the new regulations like Paramount Commerce ensures that your business is not only compliant but has the tools to succeed in a new market. Additionally, a key component is our state-of-the-art risk management system. Paramount Commerce offers a realtime decision engine proven to mitigate fraud and provides merchants with the tools needed to manage risk. Our risk management and fraud prevention solution gathers information from industry-leading sources, while their dedicated risk team continuously improves prevention and detection rules to keep transactions safe. INTRODUCING INSTANT BANK TRANSFER
We are working to launch more innovative payment solutions, which is why we are thrilled to announce at the Canadian Gaming Summit the launch of Instant Bank Transfer. Built for iGaming and sports betting, Instant Bank Transfer offers in-game deposits, verified withdrawals, one-click re-deposits, and a proven experience with industry-leading conversion. Apart from that, we are also working with Canadian regulators as more provinces are set to go live with their iGaming markets. We will continue to keep equipping our clients with the necessary tools to meet all regulatory requirements set by the province and also provide them with a suite of products that all players love. Catch Paramount Commerce’s Director of Legal Amy Reier at the “Payment Processing, AML, and NFTs” Summit session from 12:00 – 12:50 p.m. on June 7 in Room: 205B.
Galaxy Gaming are known for their world-famous games and side bets, such as 21+3, Lucky Ladies, High Card Flush, WPT Heads Up Hold’em, and more. Their years of experience combined with the brand awareness of these titles has solidified them as a leader in the Table Games space.
BUT THESE TITLES aren’t only found on traditional casino felt. In the last 12 months, over one billion wagers worldwide have been made online on Galaxy Gaming side bets alone. And this is just the beginning. Their portfolio is continuing to expand in Canada due to their robust collaborations with iGaming operators including 888, Bet365, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars, FanDuel, Leo Vegas, Northstar Bets, bwin, theScore, Unibet, Royal Panda, Party Casino, PointsBet, and more. Galaxy Gaming content can also be found on the platforms of Canadian lottery corporations including BCLC, AGLC, MBLL, SIGA, and OLG. Of the top seven side bets online, Gala x y Gaming content makes up f ive, including the world’s number
one side bet 21+3, Perfect Pairs, Buster Blackjack, Lucky Ladies, and Lucky Lucky. Today, Galaxy has 14 iGaming titles available to play in Canada. Players recognize the company’s titles from their visits to brick-and-mortar casinos and across online casinos. iGaming is the future of the industry, and that future is built above all else on the content that brands and operators can produce. Galaxy Gaming’s focus remains the same – to thrill new players with their content, wherever they may play. New games are currently in production at Galaxy that will be made available for both land-based and online casinos. Watch this space. N
H O S P I TA L I T Y
S L OT S BACARRAT V LT ’ S
MANUFACTURERS OF PREMIUM QUALITY GAMING SEATING:
Canadian Gaming Business | 41
20 YEARS OF THE CGAO BY TONY ROSA, CGAO CHAIR & PRESIDENT, AND PETER MCMAHON, CGAO CEO
IN FEBRUARY 2022, the Commercial Gaming Association of Ontario (CGAO) celebrated 20 years of continuous business operation, a remarkable feat when you consider that in the previous 10 years there had been three organizations representing the commercial operators within the charitable gaming sector. Our history can be broken down into three key pillars: why, what, and where. WHY WAS THE CGAO FORMED?
After a period of internal debate within the commercial operator sector, it was clear there was not a coherent and aligned approach to the value of a strategic partnership or unified vision for the future of the sector. Thus, after much soul searching, a small group of operators broke away and set about forming the CGAO in early 2002. This would be based on partnership, st rat eg y, a dvo c ac y, en g a g ement , and promotion to gain traction and movement for the sector. Thus, we set about building the foundation on which to re-position the message, the objectives, and vision and set the sector on a path for long-term success. WHAT HAS THE CGAO ACCOMPLISHED?
The CGAO’s mission statement was to be a reliable and consistent partner that would stand firm and support an aligned approach even when the going got tough. The sector was managing a period of venue consolidation but, longterm, this was not a sustainable strategy. It recognized that it needed to modernize through the introduction of technology. This required a new operational model and alignment that would see a tripartnership form with the charities, the Crown, and the operators. In 2005, we launched four eBingo pilots and a few years later added two more in the Windsor marketplace. There were some key lessons learnt through this process in terms of product engagement, customer experience, investment levels, 42 | Summer 2022
operational framework, and performance measurements. What was clear was we needed to broaden our consumer engagement and product offering within our channel of social/community gaming. We then forged a joint strategy with our charity partners and developed a Cha r it able Bingo a nd Ga ming Revitalization Strategy which, since it was deployed, has seen the largest investment by the sector within 50 years, generated 50 per cent increase in jobs, and provided sustainability for 2,200 charity groups that receive direct and immediate funds from the program. We now have 37 cGaming Venues and 21 Bingo Centres in the province. This has generally remained stable over the last few years after many years of consolidation and has created a unique model where we see commercial operators, community-based charities, the Crown (AGCO and OLG), and municipalities all work together in common cause to a common goal. Throughout this period of development we have, as an association, focused on supporting and promoting a health and wellness culture within our membership and ensuring this is part of our everyday language and engrained into the venue strategies, with ongoing training and education. We have continued to align, cooperate, and partner with other organizations to promote economic value that the gambling sector brings to the province. WHERE IS THE CGAO GOING?
We see the first 20 years as only setting the foundation. The transition of the gambling space in that period has been tremendous even before the recent seismic change on April 4 around iGaming and single-event sports betting in the province. We are set for another period of dramatic transformation as the historical silos begin to break down. We at the CGAO are now focusing our energy on bringing forth the Community
Entertainment Venue Concept that will appeal to the casual/local consumers who are seeking a more local, intimate social experience. We need to continue to support and provide platforms for our charities that receive immediate and direct funding and enhance our partnership with the OLG cGaming team in seeking to broaden our consumer experience within social gaming. The CGAO will continue to heighten the profile of the cGaming Sector with its long heritage and legacy in the province of providing a regulated and safe environment for our 2,200 charities and the value this brings in enriching our communities where we reside. There are, and will continue to be, numerous challenges. We see much turbulence in the coming years but with time and patience this will flush through the system and rebalance itself. We need to retain the conf idence of broader society and that will be achieved through promoting and explaining our unique place within the gambling sector. The last 20 years have f lown by, and it is only when you pause that you reflect on what has been achieved. We have stabilized the cGaming Sector, built solid partnerships, promoted the economic value of the sector, and retained a stable association. This approach has been built on a consensus of members that has allowed us to drive the sector forward. None of this would have been possible without the support and engagement of our primary partners, the OCGA, AGCO, OLG, and municipalities, and we wish to acknowledge them as a part of the journey the CGAO began 20 years ago. On to 2042 – we wonder how it will all look then. Catch Peter McMahon as a panelist at the “Charitable (Ontario) Gaming – First 10 Years” Summit from 3:05 – 3:50 p.m. on June 8 in Room – 205D and the “Community Gaming - Partnership & Making Progress” session from 2:40 – 3:25 p.m. on June 9 in Room – 205D.
McCarthy Tétrault is proud to be a platinum sponsor of the Canadian Gaming Summit 2022. We bring to the table the largest dedicated gaming law team in the country in combination with significant expertise in related areas such as AML, tax (both for Canadian and offshore companies), fintech, insurance, and privacy and data protection. Our team has years of experience in both the land-based and online gaming industries with one of the largest rosters of gaming clients in Canada. For more information on our Gaming Group, please visit mccarthy.ca or contact one of our national Gaming Group Leaders:
I McCarthy Tétrault LLP
100% of OLG profits go back to Ontario. So when we play together, we win together.