Ontario’s online gambling revenue still lags provincial rivals


ontario-lottery-gaming-playolg-online-gamblingOnline gambling revenue in Canada’s largest province continues to post impressive annual growth, although it still hasn’t caught up to its two main provincial rivals.

On Friday, the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG) released its 2018-19 annual report, detailing the provincial gambling monopoly’s activities in the 12 months ending March 31. Overall revenue hit C$8.3b (US$6.23b), a 6.1% improvement over fiscal 2017-18’s result, while net income dipped 0.6% to C$2.47b.

Lottery operations remain OLG’s bread-and-butter, accounting for a record C$4.17b last year, up 10.2% year-on-year. Land-based gaming – three self-managed casinos and 23 slots and casino facilities where gaming operations are contracted out to third parties – was up a more modest 1.6% to C$3.86b, also a record. Revenue at 31 charitable gaming venues rose 6.3% to C$183m.

Digital gaming operations at the PlayOLG online gambling site generated revenue of just under C$92m, a 25.7% year-on-year improvement. That’s a slightly higher rate than the 25.2% growth reported in 2017-18. Digital profits were up nearly one-third to C$49.6m thanks to expenses rising less than one-fifth year-on-year.

Despite having a competitive advantage via its population of 14.3m residents, Ontario’s online gambling revenue continues to lag its rivals in Quebec (C$105.4m, 8.4m residents) and British Columbia (C$149.8m, 5m residents).

It should be noted that PlayOLG made its debut in 2015, several years after those other two provinces launched their sites. It should also be noted that PlayOLG’s draw-ticket lottery sales are recorded under the ‘lottery’ segment.

Nonetheless, PlayOLG’s active customer ranks improved 24.6% in 2018-19 thanks to new products, including ‘instant-style’ and progressive jackpots, and more aggressive marketing and promotional efforts.

One year ago, OLG announced that UK-based Bede Gaming had been tasked with building OLG’s new “enterprise-wide digital foundation,” but OLG’s annual report offered no update on the original early-2020 timeline for this new digital platform’s arrival.

OLG is also still mulling which service provider will be tasked with enhancing and expanding OLG’s sports betting solutions for both retail, web and mobile channels. OLG says it hopes to announce the likely lads by “fall of 2019.”

Ontario’s new Premier Doug Ford surprised many this spring when his first provincial budget included plans to “establish a competitive market for online legal gambling that will reflect consumer choice.” OLG’s annual report added little flesh to these bones, saying only that its ability to also offer online lottery products would be a “key differentiator” in competing with private online rivals.