Casinos in Ontario are set to reopen despite the ongoing debate about mobile betting

Some argue that because mobile betting is here to stay, the market should be controlled by land-based operators.

Casinos are reopening in Ontario at the same time that a debate over the legalisation of mobile sports betting in the Canadian province heats up.

On January 5, the state of Ontario ordered all casinos in the province to close due to the spread of the Omicron strain. The majority of non-essential indoor enterprises had to close or reduce capacity. The objective was for a quick ‘circuit-breaker’ shutdown, just long enough to save hospitals from becoming overburdened.

The strategy appears to be working. The number of Omicrons is dwindling, and casinos will only be able to reopen at 50% capacity on January 31. On February 21, the next steps of the reopening will take place, and on March 14, the last limitations will be abolished.

Once casinos are fully operational, the business in Ontario will face a quickly changing landscape, similar to how mobile betting is progressively becoming permitted.

This is a contentious issue: who, after all, should have control of the online market? Land-based carriers in the province or more tech-savvy internet operators.

The government chose the latter, but that hasn’t stopped land-based casinos from making their case.

Great Canadian Gaming, which owns 12 casinos in Ontario, including Woodbine and Pickering, has weighed in on the issue, launching a last-ditch lobbying attempt to persuade the government to change its mind.

They believe that allowing online companies to govern mobile betting will “cannibalise” the earnings of brick-and-mortar casinos, destroying 2,600 jobs and $2.8 billion in tax revenue over the following five years.

The argument on the other side of the debate is that having control of web operators would bring IT and innovation employment to Canada.

Despite the protests of Great Canada Gaming, the proposal to work with internet operators is still in place.

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