Following a unanimous decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal and a recent assessment of GotSkill by an independent testing laboratory, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) Registrar is requiring liquor licensed establishments in Ontario to ensure that GotSkill gambling machines are not played on their premises.
According to Ontario’s Liquor Licence and Control Act (LLCA), liquor licence holders must not allow unlawful gambling on their licensed premises. After extensive assessment, including judicial consideration, the Registrar has concluded GotSkill meets the definition of gambling, as defined by the Criminal Code (Canada) and is therefore not permitted under the LLCA.
The Registrar is providing all licensees until May 15, 2023 to comply.
- The AGCO is responsible for administering Ontario’s LLCA as well as its Gaming Control Act and is committed to ensuring the alcohol and gaming sectors are operated with honesty, integrity and in the public interest.
- Ontario has a clearly established framework for land-based gaming, which sets out that only the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) may conduct and manage commercial gaming located at a physical premises.
- Regulated gambling also means that the AGCO protects the public by certifying the integrity of regulated gaming machines and requiring that strict harm-reduction standards be met, including those related to responsible gambling and anti-money laundering protections.
- On August 8, 2019, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its decision with respect to an appeal brought by the AGCO in relation to GotSkill, Play for Fun Studios Inc., v. Ontario (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) 2019 ONCA 648. In a unanimous decision, the Court determined that the version of GotSkill that it considered was a game of mixed chance and skill, and therefore met the definition of “game” (i.e., gambling) as defined by the Criminal Code, section 197(1).
- Subsection 43(1) of Ontario Regulation 746 under the LLCA states that a liquor licence holder shall not permit unlawful gambling to occur on the licensed premises. Unlawful gambling includes the playing of a game, as defined by the Criminal Code, except in certain limited circumstances, i.e., within a registered and regulated casino environment. Licensees are required to comply with the LLCA and the Regulations made under it.
- As previously noted in AGCO’s Information Bulletin 95, published August 9, 2019, the Registrar is aware that the developer of GotSkill made certain modifications to the game following the Court of Appeal’s decision. The AGCO retained an independent testing laboratory to assess the new version of GotSkill. Informed by the findings of this independent assessment, the Registrar has concluded that the modified GotSkill remains a game as defined by the Criminal Code.
- Liquor licence holders who permit any existing version of GotSkill to be played in their premises are therefore in violation of section 43(1).
- With the publication of this Information Bulletin, the Registrar requires liquor licence holders in Ontario not to permit further play of GotSkill in their establishments. The AGCO will allow liquor licence holders until May 15, 2023 to come into compliance with section 43(1).
Please contact the AGCO or your local AGCO Inspector, should you have any questions or require any clarification. AGCO Customer Service can be reached via the iAGCO online portal, or by phone at 1-800-522-2876, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.