We are delighted to have been awarded a license … and look forward to launching in the market when it officially opens.Global online gaming giant 888 Holdings — the parent company of 888poker, casino, and sports — will be ready with a full slate of online gambling in Ontario next month, including online poker, the company has revealed.
In a press statement issued on Thursday, the company said it was “among the first operators” to be awarded an iGaming license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) which, in tandem with iGaming Ontario (iGO), is overseeing new regulated online gaming market in Ontario.
It is the first confirmation from any operator that it hopes to launch regulated online poker in Ontario next month.
“The newly regulated market is set to launch on 4th April, with 888 ready to offer its leading, innovative and content-rich casino, sport, and poker products to players located across the province, all powered by its proprietary technology,” the company said.
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888poker Ontario Could be Ready on April 4
While there were few additional details, the press release certainly suggests that it plans to launch 888poker Ontario in the regulated market when it opens in one month’s time.
Ontario represents an attractive long-term growth opportunity for 888 and this is an extremely strategically important milestone for us.“We are delighted to have been awarded a [license] by the AGCO and look forward to launching in the market when it officially opens,” said 888 CEO Itai Pazner. “As a Group, our focus is on strengthening our presence and offer to customers across key regulated markets. To that end, Ontario represents an attractive long-term growth opportunity for 888 and this is an extremely strategically important milestone for us.”
This would represent the fifth such network for 888 in the world — It operates a global online poker room on 888poker.com, a European network pooling players in Spain and Portugal, and a segregated Italian poker room. In the United States, its platform powers the distinct WSOP PA plus it runs the 888/WSOP network across New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.
Existing and Upcoming Online Poker Networks Powered by 888
|888poker Europe||Spain and Portugal||Active|
|888/WSOP USA||Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware||Active|
|WSOP MI||Michigan||Coming soon|
|888poker Ontario||Ontario||Coming soon|
Other Poker Operators Expected in the Ontario Online Gaming Market
While the first to officially announce its plans to launch online poker in Ontario next month, 888 Holdings is not the first company to confirm a receipt of a license. Earlier in February, USGR reported that there were 30 applicants for a license. BetMGM has said it expects to go live in Canada in April. Toronto-based theScore Bet said it had received approval in February. Another local company, Rivalry Corp, and Australian bookmaker Pointsbet, have also confirmed their approval.
While no other online poker operators have confirmed receipt of a license, PokerStars has indicated that it is also actively pursuing a PokerStars Ontario license — though timings of a launch were unclear.
Caesars Entertainment has mentioned in the past that it anticpates it “will be among the better-positioned operators in Ontario.” While the company did not mention poker specifically, as the parent company of the dominant World Series of Poker brand, it could certainly be on the cards.
Indeed, the idea of a WSOP Ontario is only strengthened by today’s news of 888’s application. As noted, the pair have a long-standing partnership in the United States which could certainly be extended north of the border.
Other potential candidates include GGPoker Ontario and partypoker Ontario, though both are currently staying tight-lipped on their plans.
Possible Timeline for Regulated Online Poker Launch in Ontario
The go-live date looming fast — April 4th is only one month away. A lot is still not known about Ontario online gaming. It is understood that regulations are still being drafted — the tax rate on operators has not even been disclosed, at least not publicly.
However, assuming these 11th-hour attempts to disrupt the timeline fail, the Ontario regulators look committed to forging ahead with a launch on April 4 — but the good news is that the regulator has been clear that it wants to avoid any kind of “blackout” period in the market.
As discussed in detail in pokerfuse’s exclusive Guide to Ontario Online Poker, operators that have applied for a license prior to April 4th, should be able to continue operating in the market while their applications are under review. When their licenses are granted, the regulator wants to work with operators to assure a smooth transition from offshore to licensed Ontario online poker sites.
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