Online poker was first officially regulated in Ontario on April 4, 2022. Since then, six of the world’s top operators have obtained licenses and begun serving Ontario’s population of over 15 million. Ontario’s poker players have come out in droves to support the new market, providing no shortage of exciting poker action happening every day of the week.
Here are the best sites to play on and how they stack up against the competition.
Ontario’s regulated online poker market has the largest player pool of any regulated North American jurisdiction, with a provincial population of nearly 15 million — about 2 million more than Pennsylvania and about 5 million more than Great Lakes neighbor Michigan.
Regulated online poker in Ontario officially went live on April 4, 2022, with 888poker Ontario becoming the first licensed site to open its virtual doors.
The Ontario online poker market is ever-changing, with several operators online thus far, but more are in the wings with launches pending and awaiting final licensure. Some of the biggest names in the industry have set up shop in Ontario, and in this Guide to Online Poker in Ontario, we will give you all the information you need to know about the market’s current state and who is in it, including expert reviews of the top rooms, in-depth poker app analysis, answer questions about shared liquidity, and much more.
Currently, players looking to play online poker in Ontario on fully licensed sites can do so on one of the six active operators in the regulated Ontario online poker market, with more rooms working towards launching their Ontario-specific offerings.
Here is a quick look at the current market.
|888poker||Launched on April 4, 2022|
|Bet365||Launched on April 4, 2022, without poker|
|BetMGM/partypoker/bwin||BetMGM Launched April 5; partypoker & bwin launched April 12, 2022|
|PokerStars||Launched June 28, 2022|
|GGPoker/WSOP||Launched on Sep 30, 2022|
PokerStars launched its Ontario-exclusive poker room on June 28, nearly three months after the first Ontario online poker rooms went live.
Having waited until the right moment, it did not take long for PokerStars Ontario to become the best online poker room in the province, offering its top-notch desktop software and mobile apps and much more beyond that.
If there is one thing that PokerStars is known for, it is their impressive daily and weekly tournament schedule, and this is true in every market they operate in.
PokerStars Ontario came hot out of the gate, wasting no time in running its inaugural tournament series — the Ontario Platinum Series — which, despite some overlays, was still a solid success. This was soon followed by the first-ever Ontario Championship of Online Poker (ONCOOP), which was a great success,
One of the other big upsides of PokerStars is that they offer tournaments in poker games other than No-Limit Hold’em, with a variety of Omaha, Stud, 8-Game, and other tournaments also on the schedule.
PokerStars Ontario features the following game types and formats:
|PokerStars Ontario: Key Facts|
|Games on Offer||MTTs, Cash Games, Spin & Go|
|Apps||Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android|
|Main Highlight||Best desktop platform & mobile apps|
Although the last poker room to actually go live in the province, WSOP Ontario is also one of the best picks for the players in the province. Backed by the World Series of Poker and powered by the GGPoker software, this platform brings all the elements required for an enjoyable gaming experience, for recreational and professional players alike.
The rich schedule of daily tournaments and busy cash game tables ensure plenty of action for players across the board, from those with small bankrolls to serious professionals looking to play higher stakes and compete in big guaranteed events.
But the real differential that sets WSOP Ontario apart from the rest is the ability to host online WSOP bracelet-awarding events. With the arrival of WSOP ON, players in this Canadian province now have an opportunity to compete for the coveted poker trinkets from the comfort of their homes.
WSOP Ontario offers:
|WSOP Ontario: Key Facts|
|Games on Offer||MTTs, Cash Games, AoF, Spin & Gold|
|Apps||Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android|
|Main Highlight||Win online bracelets, powered by GGPoker software|
BetMGM Poker Ontario, powered by partypoker software, is also live with a full suite of popular game types. Ontario players who played on partypoker’s global client will see a familiar interface at BetMGM Poker Ontario.
partypoker Ontario and bwin both launched their skins in Ontario on April 12, offering the same interface and games as BetMGM Poker Ontario, but with partypoker and bwin branding. Similar to their shared network in New Jersey, partypoker, bwin, and BetMGM all share a player pool, creating the first online poker network in Ontario, the BetMGM Poker Ontario Network.
BetMGM has also come out of the gates with an impressive-looking schedule of tournaments in Ontario. It promises the Daily C-Note every night a $109 buy-in tournament starting at 7:05 pm local time. There will also be a High Roller tournament every Tuesday and Thursday, beginning simultaneously with a $530 buy-in.
Its Super Sunday tournament schedule looks solid, with 12 tournaments kicking off at five past the hour, from 3:05 pm to 8:05 pm, including PKOs, a $55 Sunday Masters, and a $530 High Roller. However, at the time of writing, none of BetMGM’s MTTs have run. It could be that it’s waiting for partypoker to join the party and pool players before kicking things off.
Ontario players on the BetMGM Poker Ontario Network have access to:
|BetMGM Poker Ontario: Key Facts|
|Games on Offer||MTTs, Cash Games, SPINs|
|Apps||Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android|
|Main Highlight||Best tournament series in the province|
888poker Ontario was the first licensed operator to go live and start dealing with real money online poker in the newly regulated Ontario market. It was also the first and only operator to launch all three verticals on day one. 888 expects to build on an already strong presence in Canada by being one of the first Ontario-specific poker rooms.
888poker Ontario got off the ground immediately with a full-service application offering a full selection of popular 888poker formats. The interface will be familiar to people moving over from the 888poker global client. 888 kicked things off in full 888 style, running daily MTTs with ambitious guarantees from day one, which led to a lot of players enjoying a lot of value thanks to huge overlays.
888 also boasts of being the only operator with a local Ontarian as a brand ambassador. Ontario-based streamer Adam “iamEklo” Tocholke was one of the founding members of the 888poker StreamTeam. He had already been streaming live from the newly launched 888 Ontario poker room on his Twitch channel.
The poker formats available at 888poker Ontario are:
|888poker Ontario: Key Facts|
|Games on Offer||MTTs, Cash Games, BLAST, SNAP|
|Apps||Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android|
|Main Highlight||Great range of cash game stakes|
Partypoker Ontario is a part of the network that includes BetMGM Poker ON and bwin poker ON, but it is a standalone operator with its own games and promotions.
The room uses the tried and tested partypoker software and features a great tournament schedule. Being a part of this network, partypoker ON is able to offer some big series with significant guarantees, which gives players a lot of reason to join.
You will find the following games and formats available on the site:
|Partypoker Ontario: Key Facts|
|Games on Offer||MTTs, Cash Games, Sit & Go|
|Apps||Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android|
|Main Highlight||Trusted industry name|
While bet365 has both of the required licenses and was one of the first operators out of the gate, deploying its casino and sportsbook operations when the market went live, the operator did not launch a poker client in its first offerings.
|Cash||NL10 to NL2500||NL2 to NL5000 PLO2 to PLO500||NL2 to NL10,000 PLO5 to PLO10,000||NL2 to NL2000 PLO2 to PLO2000|
|Fast-Fold||NL 10 to NL 200||NL2 to NL25 PLO2 and PLO10||NL5 to NL200 PLO5 to PLO200||N/A|
|SNG||$1 to $100 Hypers, 6-max and Heads-Up||None||$0.50 to $200 Hypers, 6-max, KO, and HU||N/A|
|Lottery SNGs||$1, $5, $10 (no Ultra)||10c, $1, $5, $10, $20||$1, $2, $5, $10, $25, $100||$0.25, $1, $5, $20, $50|
|MTTs||Minimal MTT schedule deployed||Full guaranteed MTT schedule||Quality MTT Schedule||Bracelet & ring events|
At first glance, regulation in Ontario seems a bit confusing, with two agencies prominently mentioned. The main regulatory body for gambling in Ontario is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Still, there is also iGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the AGCO that manages the private entities regulated in the Ontario iGaming market.
One key point for Ontario is that the iGO is restricted to “conducting and managing” the online gaming of private entities in the market. The existing, government-controlled Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) does not fall under the watch of iGO, though OLG does not have a poker component.
This market is in flux, but two networks and six poker rooms are currently dealing with real money online poker in a regulated environment. First, we have 888poker Ontario — the first Ontario poker site to go live — and then we have the three sites that comprise the BetMGM Ontario Network — BetMGM Poker Ontario, partypoker Ontario, and bwin Ontario. Then, we have PokerStars Ontario, the latecomer of the group, finally launching at the very end of June. All five have Ontario online poker apps and software available for download and offer an evolving schedule.
The latest addition to the regulated market is WSOP Ontario. Powered by the famous GGPoker software and backed by arguably the greatest poker brand out there, WSOP ON gives players another great option. Most importantly, the operator offers bracelet-awarding online events, which makes them stand out from the rest.
The regulations in Ontario specify that all play be restricted to players within the province and, for poker operators, that means a segregated player pool. Operators will need to deploy products that serve only the Ontario market. Still, there is a grace period in regulations for licensed operators that have begun the licensing process but are not ready for launch.
Rather than forcing those operators to cease operations in Ontario pending the launch of their market-specific offerings — which would have created a blackout period and potentially pushed more customers to risky offshore sites — the regulators decreed that operators could continue letting Ontario players play in their global markets, so long as they had begun the licensing process and were actively working towards a launch of their licensed and regulated Ontario poker rooms. However, they are expected to transition to a ring-fenced Ontario player pool as quickly as possible.
It is possible this could all change in the future. The Ontario regulators have considered “inter-jurisdictional compacts”. Canada already has such a compact, allowing players in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Québec to play against each other via IGT software.
While the commercial component of Ontario makes it unlikely it will join that compact in its current form — and the other three provinces do not have any commercial operators — it shows that there is potentially an inclination to share liquidity across Canada.
While only operational within Ontario borders, BetMGM, partypoker, and bwin have linked up their player pools, creating the first three-skin network in the province.
The elephant in the province of Ontario’s private regulation scheme is shared liquidity. As a result of provincial regulation of gambling in Canada, only the Ontario local government can regulate gambling for Ontarians, and it can only regulate for Ontarians.
As a result of such regulation, the Ontario internet gaming regime was deployed as a geofenced jurisdiction, where operators are expected to restrict their users to people physically located within Ontario’s borders. While some licensed operators still deal poker to Ontarians through their global player pools, that is a time-limited accommodation for operators actively working on a discrete Ontario-only version.
As geofenced markets in North America go, Ontario is very attractive. With almost 15 million people, Ontario is the largest single regulated jurisdiction in North America, capping the previous king-of-the-hill Pennsylvania with about 13 million residents.
That means, even without shared liquidity, Ontario is still an attractive market in the context of North American regulated jurisdictions. However, online poker is particularly sensitive to the player pool’s size, compared to casino gaming or sports betting activities, so online poker operators in Ontario will almost certainly be looking to expand that pool through inter-jurisdictional compacts if regulations allow.
For the time being, shared liquidity in Canada is not part of the plan. However, it is not outside the realms of possibility. A couple of similar pacts have already been formed in North America, with the MSIGA creating a multi-state player pool between NJ, NV, DE, and MI that WSOP.com already takes advantage of. With the recent addition of Ontario’s neighbor Michigan to the MSIGA, that makes a stronger case for other jurisdictions to also look towards shared liquidity.
Additionally, Canada has its shared player pool between British Columbia, Manitoba, and Québec, creating a market of around 14.7 million people — slightly smaller than Ontario on its own. Ontario regulators have considered “inter-jurisdictional compacts”, but it seems unlikely it would join the existing Canadian compact as there are fundamental differences between the markets.
State-owned Canada Poker Operators
|British Columbia||5.1 million||PlayNow.com||Yes|
|Loto Québec||8.5 million||LotoQuebec.com||Yes|
The existing BC/MB/QC Canadian online poker compact serves players via government-controlled gaming monopolies in the three provinces, and none of them have any penetration by private entities. In Ontario, the existence of private companies in the market means it would not be an easy fit into a compact with no private competition.
It is important to note that, unlike in the United States, international poker sites continue to cater to the Canadian market outside of Ontario. The current legal environment is such that it allows for offshore poker rooms to accept players from Canada without breaking any laws.
While the situation in the country has often been described as a “grey market,” it seems likely that Canadians outside of Ontario will continue to enjoy the benefits of international platforms, where they can play not just with other compatriots, but also players from all over the world.
This could change when and if other provinces decide to follow in Ontario footsteps, passing their own regulations for commercial operators, requiring them to obtain local licenses.
There has been some opposition to the Ontario regulation plan since it was announced. In particular, some Indigenous nations in Ontario saw the move infringing on their rights to control their territory and self-govern. Shawanaga First Nation and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation have expressed concerns about Indigenous self-government and the responsibility of Canadian governments to “consult and accommodate” First Nations impacted by government decisions.
Ontario’s Auditor General also pointed to some possible issues with the new regulations. In her analysis of the new rules in 2021, AG Bonnie Lysyk pointed to potential legal risks related to delegation of duties, conflict of interest, and game integrity.
Additionally, some land-based casino operations, such as Great Canadian Gaming (GCG) have expressed concern over revenue loss from the new plans. While there is general support for the idea of the regulations, GCG said “serious issues” surrounded its revenue with competition from online commercial entities.
None of the opposition has prevented the new regulations from moving forward. However, it is still entirely possible that legal action may be taken in the future to challenge the new system from a number of angles.
The new era of commercial operators in the Ontario real money online poker market is now in place, with five operators already serving real money online poker under the new regulated model. At least one more is waiting in the wings with Ontario poker apps in development. However, in some cases, those operators can continue to deal poker to Ontario players through their global player pools until the local client is completed.
It is unlikely that unregulated sites will stop serving Ontario players. While enforcement is generally a crucial part of the regulation, in Canada, it is unconstitutional for ISPs to block access to URLs on the internet, including unlicensed gaming sites.
This ties back to a 2016 case where Québec tried to require ISPs to block access to unregulated sites to promote its regulated offerings through lottoQuébec. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which regulates media access in Canada, found it violated the neutrality requirements of the federal Telecommunications Act.
That means there is essentially no way for Ontario to prevent unlicensed operators from continuing to operate in the province, so operators like Bovada (aka Bodog) or WPN (aka Americas Cardroom), who serve unregulated markets already, will continue to do so in the new era.
Considering that there are limited abilities to control unlicensed operators and getting a license commits the operator to serve a geo-locked player pool, there is an open question about why operators would launch a regulated online poker room in Ontario. While companies could, in theory, keep dealing poker to Ontario players without applying for a license, public-facing companies will be thinking twice about it.
One key advantage is marketing and advertising. Unlicensed operators serving poker in the grey market won’t be able to advertise their products to Ontario customers, and licensed operators will be able to cut sponsorship deals with local teams or entities and ambassadors.
Additionally, joining the regulated online poker market in Ontario will greatly help operators trying to get their mobile online poker apps into the official Apple and Google Play app stores. Equally, in the current environment of corporate responsibility, there is a business imperative for public companies to seek the appropriate licensing in the markets in which they operate.
Furthermore, being a licensed, regulated site means certain protections are in place for operators and players. Should problems arise, they have a regulator that can assist. And players can play with peace of mind, knowing that the licensed site is safe, secure, and trustworthy.
Ontario’s new regulated online poker market is the largest in North America, so all the major players are interested in it. The big names in the online poker game will all be doing their best to ensure they have all the access they can get to that market, so they will all be keen to get in with a fully licensed product, even if that means some short-term adverse effects.
Find out why PokerStars is our top pick for all Ontario online poker players, from hardcore grinders to recreational players looking to have fun.
Ontario online poker players can now take part in GGPoker’s unique football-themed Bet & Go format, combining poker with rooting for their favorite team.
The aptly named Fall Fest will run on PokerStars Ontario from November 19 – 28 with $550,000 in prize money up for grabs.
A new line-up of tournaments is being offered to Ontario online poker players as PokerStars upgrades its daily & weekly MTT schedule.
WSOP.ca is offering $200,000 in guarantees across its three new Sunday Flagship tournaments. The weekends just got a bit sweeter for Ontario online poker players.
Latecomer WSOP Ontario, powered by GGPoker’s cutting-edge software, controls over half of the Ontario online poker market in cash game activity.
Over 200 bracelets were awarded this year, nearly half of which ran exclusively on WSOP and GGPoker platforms serving across multiple markets.
Spokeswoman for tribal regulator said province will become fourth member of the Canada Poker Network (CPN) once online poker is added to the PlayNow platform in Saskatchewan.
Three daily Mystery Bounty tournaments have been added to 888 Ontario’s tournament schedule with combined guarantees of CAD $14,000.
Ontario online poker market heats up as online poker giant PokerStars launches a week-long series of affordable tournaments.