Online poker underwent a deep sea of change in 2022, with regulated Ontario online poker, sports betting, and casino gaming launching in early April.
Although a similar degree of change across Canada is not expected in 2023, more changes could be forthcoming in Ontario (the country’s most populous province) and other places during the new year.
Interest in multi-provincial poker is likely to continue to grow in 2023 as well, with the average number of concurrent cash game seats — and the number of provinces in a multi-provincial compact for poker — on the rise.
Here are five developments for Canadian online poker to look for in 2023:
1. iPoker Network Launches in Ontario With Multiple Partners
The segregated Ontario online poker market launched on April 4, 2022, but over the year, it became the largest regulated market for online poker in North America.
It could get even bigger. Among the potential changes, Playtech could launch its iPoker platform in the province. Toronto-based startup NorthStar Bets has expressed interest in joining iPoker — other possible candidates include European operators bet365, Betsafe, and Coolbet, which are all active on iPoker in other jurisdictions.
Sweden’s Betsson AB, an online poker giant in Europe, could also be interested in joining an iPoker network in Ontario.
2. OLG Joins Canadian Poker Network
For eight years running, the state-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has left open the possibility of launching an online poker client.
When OLG launched PlayOLG.ca in January 2015, it said the next version of its online casino would include poker and that its players in Ontario would share a player pool with players in British Columbia (BC), Manitoba, and Québec.
The three provinces are members of the Canadian Poker Network (CPN), an interprovincial compact to support online poker. Players in BC and Manitoba use the British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s (BCLC) PlayNow platform to access the network. Players in Québec use Espace Jeux, a site run by Loto-Québec.
It is assumed that OLG could launch online poker in Ontario through CPN, thereby creating Ontario’s seventh online poker room.
3. Saskatchewan Becomes Fourth CPN Member
Players in Saskatchewan are expected to have access to online poker through a future version of the PlayNow platform. Once the update is released in early 2023, Saskatchewan will become a member of CPN.
PlayNow launched in Saskatchewan in November 2022, five months after the BCLC and Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) reached an agreement for the latter to operate a customized PlayNow skin for online casino gaming and sports betting in the province.
4. Online Poker Rises in the East
Changes to Canada’s online poker landscape could also come from an unlikely source — Atlantic Canada.
The Atlantic Canada region includes the three provinces of the Maritimes — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island (PEI) — plus the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) serves all four provinces, providing sports betting across all four jurisdictions but also offering online casino gaming in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
It’s possible that the ALC could someday launch online poker. Last year, ALC spokesman Greg Weston told pokerfuse that “each province makes informed decisions — based on various factors that include legislation, regulations and their gaming strategies — to determine what products will be offered to players.”
5. Battle for Supremacy in Ontario Rages On
Ontario’s online poker operators have only been battling head-to-head in Ontario for nine months, but their rivalry is already heating up in 2023.
GGPoker Ontario, which is partnered up with WSOP, has already announced that it would hold an exclusive Online Circuit Series for players in the province. It will also likely run official WSOP 2023 Online Bracelet events in Ontario this summer.
PokerStars has the broadest range of cash game formats among the group. BetMGM is the only network with randomized cash drops in cash games, while 888 exclusively offers 9-handed cash game tables.