Then Slovakia jumped out ahead of the Canada online gambling market…
For years, I’ve been pondering the future of Canada’s mish-mash online casino laws. Some provinces offer internet gambling, some do not. Those who do monopolize the industry, claiming to be the only legal source, and yet players can access international operators with no legal threat of repercussions. It creates a confusing situation for Canadian iGamers, and prevents our government from collecting the millions in revenue that forward-thinking jurisdictions have been wrangling for years.
Over the last decade, I’ve twice predicted our government would take the regulatory plunge, in one direction or another. Both times, I was wrong. We have not made the more likely (and unfavorable) move to outlaw international gaming sites, nor have we taken the more lucrative (and preferable) option to offer licenses to international iGaming operators.
Today, my disappointment rings louder than ever as I solemnly announce the new online gambling regulatory stance of Slovakia, a miniature, central European nation that is about to position itself leaps and bounds ahead of Canada in the iGaming industry.
Slovakia Jumps Ahead of Canada Online Gambling Market
Much like the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, Slovakia maintained a ring-fenced monopoly over internet gambling for years. In 2018, the government scrapped that model, scripting new laws to provide licensure to international operators. All that’s left is for President Andrej Kiska to put his signature on the documents, and that’s more of a formality than anything else at this point.
Slovakia will begin accepting license applications for online casino on March 1, 2019, with initial approvals to come as early as July 1. Also July 1, license applications for online sports betting operations will be accepted, with approvals taking effect July 1, 2020.
Fees for online casino and online sportsbook licenses are set at €3 million a piece, or €5 million for both. Taxation has been set at 22% of gross gaming revenue; a high mark compared to the UK’s 15% levy model, but not exorbitant compared to some other regulatory markets. Barring any significant violations, each license will remain active for 10 years.
Will Canada Ever Restructure its Online Gaming Laws?
What will it take for our great nation to catch up to major jurisdictions like the UK, France, Spain, Italy, the US, and now, even Slovakia? We’re talking about a small, landlocked country that occupies a land mass of just 19,000mi², comparable in size to (yet still smaller than) the island of Nova Scotia (21,300mi²).
Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that we need regulation to move forward. The way things are now, Canadians are fully capable of gambling online at international casinos. I’ve been a loyal member of Malta-based Royal Vegas Casino for more than 15 years, and UK-based LeoVegas Casino for the last 5. But not all operators are as honorable as these. A Canadian license would mandate responsibility and ensure player protections for all. It would alleviate so many question marks for Canada’s millions of online casino fans, poker players, and sports bettors.
It would give Canada’s government the chance to rake in millions of dollars in profits. Slovakia, with a population of 5.4 million, will be pulling €3 million a pop on the limited number of applications they receive. Imagine how many applications will come pouring in for a Canadian license, hoping to access our population of over 36 million? And that’s not even including the potential taxation on gross revenue.
One day, I am certain Canada will get its act together. I do not believe 2019 will be the year, though. Until then, we can at least rest assured that the Canada online gambling market is legal and wide open for business.