How Will PokerStars Ontario Help Players Gamble Responsibly?

PokerStars Ontario hasn’t launched yet, but the brand says it is “getting closer.” Here’s what we know about the forthcoming Ontario online poker room, from a responsible gambling point of view.
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April 14, 2022

Global online poker room PokerStars has been building quite a foothold in the United States regulated markets.

Now, the online poker operator is making plans to expand northward as well — in the newly regulated online poker, casino, and sportsbook market in Ontario, Canada. Back in February, PokerStars first declared its intentions to bring its online poker, casino, and sports betting products to Ontario.

However, when the Ontario regulators posted a list of 13 operators that had purportedly begun the process of obtaining an Ontario iGaming license, but, surprisingly, PokerStars Ontario wasn’t on the list.

Luckily, it seems that the omission was nothing to worry about.

“We are continuing to work with the AGCO and iGO on our new licensed entity and are getting closer to sharing that offering with our communities across Ontario,” Rebecca McAdam Willetts, Associate Director of Consumer Engagement and Public Relations for PokerStars, told pokerfuse earlier this month.

“In the meantime, it’s business as usual for our players as our site will remain open, deposits continue to be safe, and players can still enjoy playing the events they love the most including our upcoming Spring Championship of Online Poker [SCOOP].”

In the meantime, the operator is continuing to serve the Ontario poker market from offshore, while it works with the regulators to obtain its licensure and transition over to the regulated market.

Signs that the brand has clear intent to launch PokerStars Ontario soon are looking promising. Just last week, PokerStars told pokerfuse that it was “getting closer” to a launch, although no timeline has been given.

Then, PokerStars announced it had partnered with another Flutter owned brand, FanDuel Sportsbook, to create a strategic partnership with today Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment — a company that owns prominent Canadian sports teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

As part of the partnership — and subject to PokerStars’ license getting approved — PokerStars Casino and PokerStars branding will be featured prominently throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors games including on the rink board and on-court signage.

For any operator to launch in Ontario, it must meet a whole host of responsible gambling criteria, as outlined by the provincial regulator — who, in this case, is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

“Responsible gambling is a key AGCO priority and central to the public interest,” it reads on the responsible gambling pages of the AGCO. “The intent of this risk theme is to ensure that gaming is provided in a way that seeks to minimize potential harm and promote a responsible gaming environment.”

The AGCO states that, at the bare minimum, the following must be provided by all licensed operators:

  • Players need to be able to set loss and deposit limits during their registration.
  • Operators must offer players the option of setting limits on any number of the following:
    • Deposit Limits
    • Loss Limits
    • Time Limits
    • Gaming Limits

In addition, all online gambling operators must pass an RG Check Accreditation Program before launch.

The announcement of the RG Check follows the news that The Responsible Gambling Council of Canada (RGC) will work with the AGCO and iGaming Ontario (iGO) to ensure all online poker rooms, casinos, and sportsbooks in Ontario take part in the council’s Program.

Ontario iGaming RG Check Accreditation Program: At A Glance

  • Contains 9 standards and 48 criteria that must be met in order to receive accreditation.
  • Accreditation lasts three years.
  • Provides an RG framework for operators to follow.
  • All land-based and online gambling operators in Ontario must meet the RG requirements set out in the program in order to obtain a license for the province.

Expected Responsible Gambling Tools at PokerStars Ontario

As per the PokerStars responsible gambling page, they specify some of the tools and resources they have on offer.

  • Self-exclusion: PokerStars offers players the means to ban themselves from being able to play on the site.
  • Guidance on problem gambling: PokerStars links to external help players can receive if struggling with gambling beyond their means. The operator also encourages players to download GamBlock, a software application that limits a computer’s access to online gaming sites and apps, if they are struggling with addictive behavior.
  • Risk identification: This is an inbuilt system that monitors if a player is exhibiting problem gambling behavior and flags the operator’s support team if red flags are raised.
  • Player verification: This helps ensure a player is who they say they are and that they are legally allowed to play on the site. This might mean that age verification checks and identification checks need to be carried out. This is also for the player’s protection as it helps guard against identity theft and fraud.

Although PokerStars Ontario has not yet published a comprehensive list of all the responsible gambling tools that will be inbuilt into the Ontario online poker apps, as outlined by the regulators, the site must include at the bare minimum:

  • Deposit Limits
  • Loss Limits
  • Time Limits
  • Gaming Limits
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