Ontario initiates full-scale launch of first state-run online casino, PlayOLG

State-regulated online gambling has slowly spread throughout many Canadian provinces over the last few years. In 2010, Ontario declared its intent to launch an online casino in the region, but it’s taken all this time to reach fruition. Last week, PlayOLG finally went live with its province-wide hard launch.

Ontario launches online casino PlayOLGA press release from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) went out on January 8, 2015, to announce the highly anticipated launch of PlayOLG. Previously, the Canadian online casino was only available to “eligible members of the OLG Winner’s Circle Rewards program”, who participated in an exhaustive beta-testing phase during the soft launch period.

Ontarians of legal age now have access to a modest assortment of online gambling amusements. The initial hard launch comes with 21 graphically rich video slots and 8 table games. Ontarian gamblers will find popular titles like Blackjack, Fast Poker (3 card poker), Mini Baccarat, Sic Bo, War and 3 Roulette variations; American Roulette, European Roulette and Roulette Supreme. The website details the addition of five-card video poker amusements “coming soon”.

Members of PlayOLG will also be able to secure the purchase of state lottery tickets, including LOTTO 6/49 and LOTTO MAX, as well as adding ENCORE numbers to those tickets.

“We are excited to launch PlayOLG,” said Vice President of OLG John Wisternoff, commending the launch as, “an important milestone in the modernization of gaming in Ontario.” Wisternoff went on to extoll the player protections now offered by the new online casino. “For Ontarians who love the excitement of gaming, PlayOLG offers a safe and regulated alternative to grey market websites.”

The announcement came with the delineation of the PlayOLG’s superior customer support services. A dedicated support team has been locally employed by Ontario officials (no unintelligible accents here) to deliver 24/7 assistance via toll-free telephone, live chat support and email.

OLG briefly touched on the subject of the lengthy delays involved in the launch of its provincial online casino website by detailing the commission’s efforts to ensure the maintenance of responsible gambling practices. According to the press release, PlayOLG has a number of Responsible Gambling (RG) tools embedded directly into the software. Those tools were developed to integrate “Canadian and global best practices” after extensive research involving addiction specialists, professional research consultants and investors.

The RG programs installed by the OLG have received international acclaim, including reception of the World Lottery Association (WLA) Best Overall Responsible Gambling Program Award in November of 2014. Such safeguards include the exemption of anonymous players, age/identity verification upon registration, mandatory deposit/loss/play-time limitations, customized in-game RG messaging systems, self-exclusion options and more.

One unique aspect of the Canadian online casino is that if a player wishes to increase their spending limits, upon request, they must undergo a 7-day cooling off period in which they cannot access the real-money games. Players also have access to a complete history of their online casino account, and parents will find a multitude of tips on how to prevent their children from accessing PlayOLG or any other online gambling websites.

It’s been estimated that half a million Ontarians have been spending $400-$500 million at offshore, “grey market” gambling websites. The provincial launch of PlayOLG now puts Ontario on par with other Canadian territories that have previously introduced legal, state-regulated online casinos, including British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.