OLG casino modernization
The OLG started modernizing commercial gaming operations by inviting private-sector casino companies to become the new Casino Operators. The OLG divided Ontario casino sites into eight gaming bundles and released Requests for Proposal for private-sector Casino Operators for each bundle. All eight bundles (East, Southwest, North, Ottawa, GTA, West GTA, Central, and Niagara) have transitioned to private- sector Casino Operators. The Niagara Bundle was the last to transition in June 2019.
Casino Operators are choosing to build new casinos or expand and relocate existing ones in their respective bundles. Numerous expansions and new builds have taken place over the past few years, many with plans to build hotels and live entertainment venues, as well as expand gaming facilities to include “live” table games. The AGCO enhances the operators’ understanding of and compliance with AGCO/OPP regulatory requirements by providing them with a Building, Expanding and Relocating Casinos guide, and participates in activities such as pre-opening compliance inspections and “mock” casino exercises.
Over the past year, due to COVID-19, the casino sites have had significant impacts to the implementation and timing of their plans regarding their new builds and expansions. They are expected to abide by all provincial and local health guidelines and the Provincial Re-opening Framework to ensure the health and safety of patrons and staff. They have also completed a COVID-19 pandemic re-opening plan that was submitted to the AGCO for review.
As the Ontario government closed land-based gaming sites as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, the AGCO began to work with industry stakeholders to identify options for a safe and responsible re-opening of land-based gaming. To that end, the Registrar established Standard 1.2.1 to support a collaborative approach among the AGCO, charitable gaming centre Operators, Casino Operators, and the OLG for the safe re-opening of gaming sites. Operators developed and implemented pandemic re-opening plans to comply with government and public health requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at physical gaming sites, had the plans assessed by an infectious disease subject matter expert and provided them to the AGCO for review. Upon re-opening, the operators provided pandemic compliance performance self-assessment reports, and the AGCO conducted periodic inspections to ensure the gaming sites were in compliance with their plans.
OLG player platform and lottery modernization
Under the OLG’s Lottery Modernization Strategy, and in accordance with AGCO standards, the OLG is also modernizing key components of its lottery and igaming business, including a new OLG Player Platform, the replacement of lottery terminals, an enhanced sports betting solution, a new web and App presence, as well as new games.
The goal of the OLG Player Platform, which launched in October of 2020, and the Lottery Modernization Strategy is to expand the customer base by ensuring technology and product solutions are responsive to changing customer needs. Due to COVID-19, the OLG intends to segment the launch of all Lottery Modernization initiatives for digital and retail channels including the release of their new sports betting solution, with Phase 1 of digital and retail releases planned for later in the coming fiscal year and the integration of all systems to be part of future phases. The AGCO is working to educate new Gaming-Related Suppliers on the regulatory requirements and expectations as well as to assess technical solutions in accordance with the Registrar’s Standards and the principles of integrity and public interest.
The OLG and the AGCO continue to work together to implement the overall modernization strategy. The AGCO’s approach, both in its day-to-day role as well as in modernization, is to be standards- and risk- based, as well as outcomes-focused. The agency has successfully transitioned to a standards-based approach in casino gaming, lotteries, charitable gaming and igaming.