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Ontario Online Gambling Regulator Looks Into Self-Exclusion Loophole


he Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has only been regulating online gambling for a few months, but it seems the first issues with its guidelines are starting to pop up. Reportedly, some players are abusing self-exclusion features to get out of losing bets. While self-exclusion schemes are crucial for protecting vulnerable players, abusing them is bad news for any healthy online gambling market.

The iGaming subsidiary of the AGCO is already looking into curbing the practice to keep things fair for gaming operators. However, doing so while also protecting the well-being of players can be a tricky tightrope to walk on.

If you’re new to online gambling, be sure to know what you’re getting into.

What is Online Gambling Self-Exclusion?

As you probably know by know, gambling is not without its dangers, and regulations exist to minimize those risks. At least in theory.

One of the bigger issues with both online and offline gambling is that it causes addiction. This used to be a point of contention, but it’s hard to argue against it nowadays. Once someone is falling into the depths of problem gambling, stopping can be very hard. That’s why most online gambling regulations state that gambling sites are obligated to have a self-exlusion sheme.

Self-exclusion is pretty much what it sounds like. It allows people to essentially lock themselves out of gambling establishments. This can last a set period, and most casinos allow permanent self-exclusion. The main idea is that there’s no way for a player to circumvent this exclusion, thereby keeping possible addiction in check.

The problem is that online casinos provide an almost endless supply of new temptations for anyone trying to keep their gambling in check. If you self-exclude from one casino, you can just waltz over to the next one among thousands.

The UK was the first to tackle this issue directly with The National Online Self Exclusion Scheme, otherwise known as GamStop. Not surprising, considering Britain is widely considered to be a leader in terms of regulating online gambling. The idea is that all licensed gambling establishments in the UK are required to connect to a unified self-exclusion network. If a player is excluded from one online casino, they’re barred from all of them.

Self-Exclusion in Online Casinos in Ontario

The Canadian online gambling market does not currently have an “official” equivalent to GamStop. However, sections of the online gambling standard guidelines clearly mention that self-exclusion schemes are a must if a site wants to be licensed.

That’s a good principle for any gambling regulative body. However, the issue comes with a few lines of the standards. Namely, two points seem to be causing problems for operators:

Operators shall cancel all future game transactions for self-excluded individuals.”

A mechanism shall be in place to facilitate the return of the balance of unused funds to a self-excluded individual, when requested by the individual.”

These seem good for players, but they’re quite clearly very abusable.

What’s the Loophole?

It appears that newly-licensed betting sites in Ontario are complaining that some players are abusing the above regulations. The idea is quite simple – they place a bet, and when it seems like a loss is imminent (such as in the closing moments of a sports match), they ask for self-exclusion. The operators are forced to cancel “all future game transactions”, which include outstanding bets.

The rabbit hole goes a little deeper, too. The prevailing strategy seems to be all about placing two opposing bets on multiple online sportsbooks. You then cancel the losing one and pocket the winnings of the other one, which guarantees profits.

The online sportsbooks themselves are refusing to comment, likely in fear of inciting more players to abuse the system in this way.

However, the iGaming agency of the AGCO has stated that they’re aware of the problem. They’re also working on a solution that would be fair to both operators and vulnerable player groups.

So far, it seems that the primary goal is to set up a centralized mechanism to self-exclude from all of the gambling sites in Ontario. This would not only offer better protection from possible addiction, but it would also render the strategy we described useless.

It seems like a win-win, and the AGCO says it is working on this type of solution, which would effectively close the loophole being used by some gamblers.

According to Raymond Kahnert, senior communications advisor with the agency:

“The launch of a centralized self-exclusion registry is a priority for AGCO and iGaming Ontario.”

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