Customer Backlash As Regulation Causes Ontario Gambling Market Upheaval
All eyes are Ontario as the province launched the first regulated gambling market in the country on 4 April, but the 10 days since the market opened have not been all smooth betting and jackpot dreams. Rather, it's been a bit of a rocky launch, with delays and hitches in the registration process leaving players unable to sign up at some of Ontario's regulated slots sites.
KYC and Customer Support Issues
One of the main issues for players has been the KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations. According to the new Ontario regulations, players need to submit documentation to verify their identities in order to gamble online. It's a reasonable requirement really, but the process is the issue.
James Brotherton, Director of Sales North America at Gambling.com Group, explained, "Customers are able to sign up, but are unable to progress. KYC is a signup issue. There is something wrong with the funnel, so players have to be manually approved, which causes bottlenecks and delays."
There is also little consistency from site to site in the documentation required, partly because there are no clear guidelines from iGaming Ontario (iGO). Player Adam Chernoff Tweeted, "Some people get the green light immediately. Some are told to wait to 7 days. Some need front/back of license, some need a selfie, some need utility bills. What are the rules, and why is the experience and requirements so different from book to book?"
In addition, the surge of players trying to register means that customer services at some sites were swamped with waiting times up to four hours in some cases. One player commented, "Support queues are 3-4 hours long, nobody can get an answer and account balances are stuck...if you can have your location verified to log in! They could not have done a worse job launching in Ontario."
Ontario iGaming Launch - Geo-location Issues
A common theme appears to be that there have been major issues with the process of account creation. A frustrated player commented, "Took about 4 days to get verified after having a @bet365 account for over a decade, now they're claiming I don't live in Ontario, and yes I downloaded that geo app. If you guys don't want me betting on your app, just say so."
Another player said, "Bet365 has been not allowing bets from Ontario-located customers for two days now. Be better please and be fast about it."
Part of the new regulations for the iGaming launch in Ontario were stringent rules about only allowing players in the Ontario province to register. To do this, casino sites and apps need sophisticated geo-location technology. Some existing apps and sites that may have been operating in Canada for years needed to update their technical infrastructure in order to meet these geo-location requirements... and with new systems, come new issues.
Some of the geo-locators do not seem to be working correctly, with players in Ontario blocked from creating accounts. Meanwhile, players outside Ontario may be wondering why they can no longer access accounts from brands that have licenses to operate in Ontario. The answer to this, is that brands that are fully licensed in Ontario may no longer supply betting services to players outside the province. If the geo-locators are faulty, it's a problem all around, really.
There is good news for players at one particular site at least. Bet365 seem to have resolved their teething issues, and offered some of its players betting vouchers to ease them over the bumpy introduction.
Ontario Online Gambling Advertising Issues
While some players may have had issues registering their accounts, others have been complaining about the quantity of gambling advertisements they have seen. "Ok make sports betting in Ontario illegal again, I've seen enough ads for this sh*t," said one player, while another commented, "Online betting has only been legalized in Ontario a week and I'm already annoyed at their terrible ads I'm seeing everywhere."
Despite the profusion of ads, casinos and sportsbooks are not allowed to advertise their bonus offers. This creates the impression that Ontario players can't get casino bonuses, particularly from US brands, while their counterparts in the US can.
It is unclear at this stage whether there is truth in this, but we do know that brands like Bet365, BetRivers and Caesars do offer slots bonuses. However, you have to opt in at the casinos themselves to receive bonus information, which makes it difficult for players to assess their options.
Ontario iGaming Brand Launch Updates
While players have valid complaints about some aspects of the Ontario launch, overall it has been a successful start for some of the new brands in the province. Despite some launch issues, Bet365 has been "by far the best received" according to an industry insider.
A source also confirmed that Caesars is planning to launch its betting app soon. "Our team is currently working on the release of the Caesars app in Ontario, which we will be announcing very soon!"
It was always going to be a big ask to launch the new regulated Ontario market without a hitch, but the teething problems are not insurmountable. After a relatively rocky beginning, Ontario online gambling looks set to add a significant contribution to the province's coffers, as well as providing safe platforms for Ontario players to enjoy gambling responsibly. The geo-location glitches and other issues have been mostly ironed out by now, but hopefully the provincial authorities will reconsider their stance on bonus advertising as the market matures. Canadians have been playing online for many years, after all, so casino bonuses are not a new thing.