NFL Week One kicked off last Thursday with a 21-20 upset win for the Lions over the Chiefs. Thousands of sports bettors in Ontario celebrated football being back by betting on their favourite teams and players. However, daily sports fantasy players in Ontario were left out in the cold for yet another year.
Ontario is one of the best provinces in Canada for legal sports betting. Unlike the other provinces which just have government-run sportsbooks, there are dozens of legal sports betting sites in Ontario. Despite this, daily fantasy sports and many other fantasy sports competitions are still illegal in the province.
- In the eyes of Ontario regulators, daily fantasy sports competitions are a form of gambling.
- Ontario regulators may be too focused on regulating sports betting advertisements to address less-important issues such as daily fantasy sports.
- Many US states also have restrictions on daily fantasy sports.
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The state of daily fantasy sports in Ontario
As every fantasy sports fan knows, the fantasy sports industry is ginormous. Daily fantasy sports is just one small subset of that industry. However, it is growing in popularity every year for two reasons. One, it is more fun than season-long fantasy for a lot of people. And two, it is because you can earn a lot of money playing daily fantasy sports.
The second reason is why daily fantasy sports is illegal in Ontario. In the eyes of Ontario regulators, daily fantasy sports competitions are a form of gambling. However, this does not completely explain why DFS sites are illegal in Ontario.
The most high-profile daily fantasy sports competitions involve pooling money from every player and then awarding a portion of that money at the end of the competition. The problem with running these competitions in Ontario is that Ontario law requires all competition participants to be located in Ontario.
This leaves daily fantasy sports sites in Ontario with two options. DFS sites can either create Ontario-specific sites and run competitions just for Ontario daily fantasy sports players, or they can wait for Ontario to change its laws regarding sports betting. Most sites have opted for the second option. Unfortunately for those sites and daily fantasy sports bettors in Ontario, there does not seem to be any momentum towards legalising daily fantasy sports in Ontario.
FanDuel, DraftKings, and Underdog pushing for change
The Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA), a non-profit lobbying organisation based in the US, has long pushed for legal daily fantasy sports in Ontario. In an interview with Covers, FSGA government affairs advisor Peter Schoenke said there was “no movement” regarding the legalisation of daily fantasy sports in Ontario. “There’s really no sign on the horizon that anything’s going to change,” Schoenke added.
If Schoenke is right, this is a huge blow to the major daily fantasy sports providers in North America. Many of these companies, including DraftKings, Underdog, and FanDuel, have representatives on the FSGA board. However, it is possible things could change once the Ontario sports betting market develops and matures a bit more.
Schoenke believes that Ontario regulators may be too focused on regulating sports betting advertisements to address less-important issues such as daily fantasy sports. Once Ontario regulators strike a balance on sports betting ads, addressing daily fantasy sports could be next. For now though, fantasy sports fans will have to go another NFL season without legal daily fantasy sports in Ontario.
Ontario not alone in daily fantasy sports ban
Ontario is far from the only jurisdiction in North America that regulates daily fantasy sports in this way. Many US states also have restrictions on daily fantasy sports. Some states have restrictions on the types of competitions allowed. Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington, have banned all forms of paid daily fantasy sports.
In addition to the logistical issues of players participating in daily fantasy sports competitions outside of their jurisdictions, many states take issue with DFS as a game of luck and not a game of skill. In states that view DFS as a game of luck, it is treated as gambling. Like in Canada, gambling laws are not dictated by the federal government. Each state decides how to regulate sports betting.
Paying attention to the US market and how DFS sites expand to new states, could be key to understanding how and when legal daily fantasy will come to Ontario.
Noah Strang is an experienced sports writer having covered many professional sports leagues across North America. He has worked extensively covering the NHL and been accredited media for the Vegas Golden Knights in the past. He’s also known as one of the best iGaming writers across Canada with extensive experience covering the development of legal sports betting across the country. He was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, and enjoys taking advantage of the coastline. When not writing, you can find him watching whatever sport is on TV or playing pickup basketball.