Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario ( AGCO)
Founded in 1998, the AGCO is the administer for the Gaming Control Act in Ontario, which includes Ontario online casinos, along with other functions such as lottery, horse racing, and liquor licensing. This same commission also regulates the use of recreational cannabis. The key mission of the agency is the protection of the public interest from entities involved with iGaming, alcohol, and horse racing.
Over the past decade, there’s been a global overhaul of the iGaming industry. We’ve seen it in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany to name a few, and Canada, Ontario is now seeing a reordering or restructuring of their gaming rules and regulations. One of the new player’s support features being offered by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario also known as the AGCO, is that they’re providing sports betting and online gambling information to players. Designed player support services are new to Ontario and are geared towards providing players with access to gaming operations that act responsibly and are of the highest integrity. The AGCO also monitors the marketing of iGaming products to protect players that have self-excluded and other vulnerable individuals such as young people, as well as to strengthen the overall legitimacy of iGaming.
There’s a new logo that was created by Ontario iGaming and those companies that have completed registration and follow the proper procedures are legally eligible to place this logo on their website. The logo on these websites signifies that the company adheres to the highest level of monitoring provided by the AGCO.
This is not to say that the OLG is replaced in any way. They still offer gaming over the internet at olg.ca.
Those Ontario online casinos which have signed an agreement with Ontario iGaming are listed in the directory of approved and fully registered gambling companies operating in Ontario that can be reached at igamingontario.ca. Operators are required within two years of signing an operating agreement to obtain and maintain good standing. As within the United Kingdom, Ontario iGaming plans to have a centralised self-exclusion scheme in place and is currently in development. Sports betting companies and online casinos that signed an agreement with Ontario iGaming are required to have their self-exclusion programs enabled.
The purpose of most of the regulations and rules is to keep gaming companies in check and to protect players. Regulations still stem from 78/12 of The Gaming Control Act of 1992 and that entire regulation was created to prohibit unauthorised Lottery schemes. The current rules have an intense focus on how gaming companies should market their services and how to keep players aware of responsible gambling and to offer transparency to players.
Best Online Casinos with a Gaming Commission of Ontario ( AGCO) Licensee:
Sports Betting in Ontario
Beyond lotteries and online casinos, the AGCO also oversees sports betting in the Ontario gaming market. They protect players by making it mandatory for sports betting operations to adhere to the following:
Sports and event betting operators are required to have independent monitoring. This monitoring is performed to detect suspicious behavior that is not permitted within the set gaming standards.
Those working for the operators, as well as referees, coaches, and athletes are prohibited from wagering on some events.
Wagers, odds, and overall criteria for betting must be fair and transparent.
In terms of the Canadian online casino sector, the AGCO assesses applications from gaming providers, suppliers, as well as trade unions and other casino employees.
Six registration types exist that are determined for eligibility by the AGCO:
- Trade Unions are organizations that represent employees at casino gaming operations.
- Category one gaming assistants who are employees that are responsible for the training and supervision of other casino or gaming employees.
- Category two gaming assistants that do not hold positions that require the training or supervision of other employees.
- Non-gaming related suppliers are companies or individuals that provide maintenance, furnishings, construction, and other non-gaming related functions to an operating gaming facility.
- Gaming related suppliers are those companies or individuals that provide gaming equipment, repairs to gaming equipment, or other services related to gaming.
- Operators are casino companies, sports betting companies, and lotteries, both online and land-based.
Gaming registrants are now required to use the iAGCO online portal to conduct transactions. This includes those above-mentioned categories. More information can be obtained by calling 1-800-522-2876, in Canada, 416-326-8700 or by visiting www.agco.ca. An excellent tutorial video for creating an account can be found here https://vimeo.com/394546352.
Player Risk and Benefits
Some of the risks to players that these regulations address is that players have had insufficient information about casinos and bonuses and overall promotions to make safe and knowledgeable choices. There’s more of an emphasis on investigating how games perform the procedures and that the game follows a proper return to the player and overall fairness of the games. The regulations also look to protect people from behind-the-scenes game manipulations and in sports betting, making sure that there are no insider deals that could manipulate odds or payouts.
The rules have remained the same and revolve around fairness and transparency in financial transactions. The minimum requirements for betting companies and casino companies to remain in good standing is that they are continually audited and that they follow the rules for fair betting. Those companies are also required to confirm prize payments and keep continuous financial records. Gaming companies are also required to, promptly resolve any player disputes and to track player funding information, and all gaming sessions. This is all pretty much done in all casino software where it records each spin of a slot or hand of Poker.
Companies are also required to have procedures in place if a player gets disconnected in the middle of a hand or slot spin, very much like those rules seen in the United Kingdom. Gaming companies must list game objectives, the number of Wagers that can be placed, the game rules, the odds of winning, and the house advantage. Many of these gaming Integrity rules are already handled by the gaming production companies and most often this information can be found within the game that the player is playing.
And again, like those regulations found in the UK Gambling Commission rules, AGCO also requires truth in advertising across the board. Gaming companies are required to list prizes and outcomes and even features those players cannot achieve. Nowhere can a gaming company make promises which are false or even say that winning is one of the outcomes of gambling nor can that company suggest it is possible to continue to play to recover any lost wagers. It also appears that the AGCO will approve all games, or the games be certified already by an independent testing company.
One very interesting aspect of the live gaming requirements is that operators must monitor their live games to make sure that they are functioning properly and that players are receiving their payments. Before, and in many other countries, it was up to the gaming supplier to do this but now there’s an extra required layer of protection for live casino gaming. Also, if a game is found to be malfunctioning that game must be taken offline and made not available to players until a correction has been made which makes the game fair and operating properly again.
Player Awareness and Playing on Regulated Sites
The iGaming Ontario logo is how players can now know if they are playing on a regulated site A site that follows responsible gambling practices and offers the highest integrity in their gaming. It has been shown that players on regulated gaming sites do have several benefits versus playing at nonregulated sites. Some of the benefits the players can expect are that their information is kept personal and that their financial information is secured. Players can also expect game transparency, operator transparency, and accurate and timely payouts of their winnings. On unregulated sites personal information may not be secured, payouts can be delayed, and winnings could be held by the operator. Also, an unregulated site’s transparency for the games is not a requirement.
Responsible Gambling and Betting at Canadian Online Casinos
The key point that all these government regulators are driving is responsible gambling and the AGCO is interested in protecting Ontarians. As has been seen with other Regulators, messages of responsible gaming are required, and that customer support is always active. The difference may be that the AGCO requires Live customer service 24/7. In Canada, there are many responsible gambling resources. There’s the Canadian Centre on substance abuse and addiction along with the centre for addiction and mental health. Additionally, there is Connex Ontario, OLG play smart, and the RGC Responsible Gaming Council. One of the most helpful features in responsible gaming is limit-setting features. These are casino in-game settings that can be controlled by the player where they can set loss limits, they can limit the amount that they deposit, and the player may also set limits on other financial functions.
The AGCO also in detail describes how sports betting and betting on events must be entirely clear to the player. So according to the requirements, betting on multiple events must be described as parlays, players must be informed if their bets are not accepted, and on any automatic betting features, players must have a way to opt-out of it at any time. Those Canadian online casinos in partnership with AGCO must have their payouts displayed in Canadian currency only.
For slot games, one of the most interesting regulations is that the visual and audio effects associated with a win must be in line with an actual win. In other words, exciting sounds and visuals can be applied to a win that is less than or equal to the last total amount wagered. It’s also a requirement that slot games show the customer’s total winnings and total losses all in Canadian dollars.
Roles of iGaming Ontario and AGCO
To make it clear, iGaming Ontario is a subsidiary of the AGCO. They work with the AGCO and the Ontario government to deliver players a clear listing of safe gambling environments. Their goal is to protect players and give them the safest choices. Now, the AGCO is the regulator and registrar for online gaming sites. It sets the standards that protect players and its purpose is to fortify the integrity of iGaming in Canada and Ontario.
Comparisons to Other Regulators
In comparison to other gambling Regulators, the AGCO appears to have selected wording that is easy to follow and have created regulations that aren’t confusing. The UK Gambling Commission, on the other hand, has many worthy regulations but is oftentimes vague and confusing to operators which have caused many problems and possible fines for those operators. most of these regulators have been using templates of what works in other governments in other countries, and it seems the AGCO has done just that. AGCO regulations are straightforward, and the purpose of AGCO and iGaming Ontario are completely transparent which is a refreshing change from other regulators and their subsidiaries.
It should be stated that the UK Gambling Commission did pave the way and prepare operators for further regulations from other countries. Most operators are already fully aware that they can be fined if they do not follow the regulations, and many are already in compliance with the UK Gambling Commission so any other regulations from other countries should be easy to follow. It does make geolocation services to players more important than ever. This goes for gambling operators sports betting operators and Affiliates. this is especially true with the Canadian currency requirements of the AGCO.
What is an ITL?
Ontario’s newly competitive gaming market has created a need for additional game testing, and RNG testing. This has opened compliance testing opportunities for testing companies. The currently registered ITLs (Independent Testing Labs) have some familiar and some new:
- Eclipse Compliance Testing
- iTech Labs
- Gaming Associates Europe
- BMMNorth America
- Quinel Ltd
- Gaming Laboratories International
Several of these ITLs have worked within other regulated markets. A number of these received priority determinations in receiving their certifications as ITLs. These independent testing facilities serve an important task in testing because the AGCO does not approve or directly test iGaming technology in-house.
What are others saying about the AGCO?
There’s a fantastic article from back in September of 2021 by Matt Rybaltowski on sportshandle.com (https://sportshandle.com/ontario-agco-final-standards-sports-betting/) that discussed the initial issuance of the final standards from the AGCO.
The article does point out that the AGCO does have robust protocols for responsible gaming and that it is especially interested in protecting minors from inappropriate advertising and keeping players aware of risk. There is more of a focus on the sports betting aspect and protections from the AGCO for sports betting because of the content of their website. So, one of the interesting points in the article is that Jason Robins of DraftKings noted that Ontario has about 15 million residents and that if it were in the United States it would be considered a top 10 Market. With that many residents, the importance of that province brings home how important the AGCO regulations will be in protecting Ontarians from thirsty unregulated gambling providers.
Even Geoff Zochodne (https://twitter.com/geoffzochodne) of covers.com points out in his article from February 2022, that Ontario has a giant target painted on it for the “biggest names in sports betting.”
Submitting a Complaint to the AGCO
The AGCO accepts complaints about businesses and individuals that fall under their umbrella of regulation. All complaints are anonymous, but it does help if the player provides proper information so that specifics may be addressed by the AGCO with the provider. Because the AGCO deals with so many different types of businesses, it is important to select the correct category when submitting a complaint.
Other ways in which to contact the AGCO:
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
90 Sheppard Avenue East, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario M2N 0A4
Tel: 416-326-8700 or 1-800-522-2876 (toll free in Ontario)
Player Facing Support from Ontario iGaming (iGO)
While the https://www.igamingontario.ca/ is supposed to be at the forefront of the push for player support, in its early days, it really offers very little information. Some of the key info that is provided is that gambling products which are managed and conducted by iGaming Ontario can only be played by participants that are 19 and older. The site does provide a small list of current gambling providers that are regulated, and the site does provide some minimal information on where to get help for problem gambling in Canada. Currently, the FAQ portion of the site is very bare-bones https://www.igamingontario.ca/en/player/player-faqs as can be seen in the responses to what are some very important questions.
As it is, the iGaming Ontario site seems to be more for the operators than the players. It gives very detailed information on how to register with the iGO and with the AGCO. The important information that players will be looking can be located at https://www.agco.ca/.
Ultimately, the AGCO and the iGO will play an important role in the continuing development of Ontario’s competitive gambling market. If the market were to be left to unregulated casinos, it could eventually not only harm players, but also the overall economy of Ontario. The protections that are offered by licensing casinos and sports betting operations also improves the overall reputation of the entire gaming industry.
Licensing and regulatory measures provide a layer of accountability for those licensed and gives players a real way in which to dispute unfair gaming. Unsanctioned, non-licensed casinos just leave too much opportunity for fraudulent activity. With future emerging Canadian online casino markets, the AGCO could easily be used as the template for a successful methodology.