The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has updated the status of the long-awaited launch of PlayOLG. Their website now says "It's almost game time ... and eligible members of OLG's Winner's Circle Rewards will get the chance to play on the site first with early access! Soon after that, PlayOLG will open to all players across the province in the following weeks."
PlayOLG is the province's planned online gaming site — the only one legally licensed and regulated in Ontario. It's a site that has been in the works since 2010 and has always been just around the corner with promises of "launching later this year" being renewed year after year.
Now, OLG is saying we are just weeks away from seeing PlayOLG actually accepting Ontarians to the site, though no firm date has been set.
The plan is to offer national lottery play, online slot machines, and table games. An online poker room is not to be included in the initial launch. OLG explains that "PlayOLG will evolve its games portfolio to include poker, bingo, sportsbetting, and other games across multiple channels and platforms."
Currently, government-regulated and licensed online gaming sites are operated in the provinces of B.C., Manitoba, and Quebec. These all fall under the PlayNow brand (EspaceJeux in Quebec) and their poker rooms share a pool of poker players through the Canadian Poker Network (CPN). It is not yet confirmed whether PlayOLG's eventual online poker room will join the CPN to make it a four-province pool of players.
As you all know, Canadians currently play on a wide range of offshore online gaming sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt, partypoker, 888poker, PKR Poker, etc. All of these operate in Canada allowed by a grey area of the law, and provincial gaming corporations like OLG are eager to repatriate those gambling dollars. According to Canada.com, there are approximately 500,000 players in Ontario spending their money on offshore sites which is estimated to be $400 million to $500 million annually in lost gross revenue.
OLG trusts that a crown-corporation-owned gambling site will give players the peace of mind that they believe is lacking in offshore sites. It is yet to be seen whether this enough of a draw for players to choose their site over an already-busy market of online gambling. The experience of the three other Canadian provinces show that their gaming product is not up to the standard that is offered by offshore sites and are having difficulty attracting a large number of players.
* Lead photo courtesy of PlayOLG.ca