All the eyes and ears in the North American online gaming world are focused on Ontario, as private operators wait to hear when the province will launch its open online gaming market.
In the meantime, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, in conjunction with iGaming Ontario, continues to review gaming applications from private operators to ensure they’re meeting all the necessary requirements. One of those key requirements is to ensure that only users in the province in Ontario can access online gaming options, once the market goes live.
So how will private industry leaders meet this requirement? Enter GeoComply.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company is a third-party location service provider that provides cybersecurity solutions to detect location fraud and verify a user’s true identity. Its services are already being used by such gaming industry companies in the United States as FanDuel, BetMGM, DraftKings, and Caesars in order to comply with state regulations and to ensure players are located within the designated geographic borders.
For example, in order to fully access DraftKings Sportsbook on a personal computer in a legal state, you need to enable location services and the GeoComply plugin must be installed and then run in the background to continue playing without interruption. The company’s software is installed on over 400 million devices worldwide and analyzes over three billion transactions a year.
GeoComply and New York’s launch
Four sportsbooks — FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, and BetRivers — were authorized to begin taking mobile sports wagers Jan. 8 in New York state, which shares a border and waterways with Ontario. GeoComply was able to track all of the wagers to uphold geographic compliance within the state, and it provided some staggering statistics. In the video below, red pin marks indicate attempts to bet outside the borders of New York State.
The first 36 hours of #SportsBetting in New York was LEGENDARY. In total, NY saw over 17M checks for their first weekend.
Check out this video of #geolocation volume! pic.twitter.com/FylPc2BpUQ
— GeoComply (@GeoComply) January 10, 2022
“We have a large team of people dedicated to researching and being on top of the latest spoofing risks, fake location apps, that type of thing one may try to use to circumvent our systems.” said GeoComply Managing Director of Gaming Lindsay Slader. “Anyone that is trying to use any such a tool is going to be very disappointed. It’s not going to work for them.”
The first two days of legal online sports gambling in New York saw 2½ times the number of wagers as the previous highest state launch, Pennsylvania, GeoComply’s Chad Kornett told Sports Handle‘s Mark Saxon. Kornett also mentioned 8 million of the 17.2 million bets the first two days in the state came from New York City, with a huge cluster of those in Manhattan’s Midtown East.
Access to this kind of information is extremely valuable to online gaming companies looking to identify and then target their user bases.
Challenges to geofencing Ontario
There are a number of challenges to geofencing Ontario specifically, according to Slader.
”Ontario is a particularly unique geographic place to be geofenced,” Slader said. “Because it borders the American border, it’s probably the second-most populous jurisdiction that GeoComply is going to support. So after New York, it has 14 or 15 million people, that’s bigger than Pennsylvania, bigger than Michigan, bigger than New Jersey. A large portion is clustered right around the American border. Lots of bridges, tunnels, rivers, and also some land areas.”
Nearly half of Ontario’s residents live in, or around, the city of Toronto, Canada‘s largest city. So the majority of online gaming users will be accessing platforms from around the greater Toronto area, which is home to nearly 7 million Canadians. The sheer number of users in this area won’t cause problems for geolocation software, but there are some regions in the province that could potentially pose issues.
“Montreal is within very close reach [roughly 19 miles] of betting on an Ontario site. What kind of risk does that pose? When you’re thinking about how you pinpoint someone’s location, if you’re not looking at accurate location data like Wi-Fi or GPS, you’re just counting on an IP address,” Slader noted. “An IP address can easily cover 50 kilometers [31 miles] or more, it can easily stretch you from Montreal into Ontario, even if you may not even actually be in Ontario. There’s definitely risks to the different types, or calibers of different types, of geolocation you’ll be using.”
Border cities linking the U.S. and Canada, like Detroit and Windsor and Buffalo and Niagara Falls, require pinpoint location accuracy to ensure compliance. “There’s a lot of logic and controls that need to be built into a live system to make sure that users that shouldn’t be eligible to play are blocked in real time,” Slader noted.
Technology compliance in AGCO guide
Private operators wishing to get an operating license in Ontario must meet the requirements of the AGCO’s Internet Gaming Compliance Guide. Section 2 of the guide is dedicated to technology compliance, where there are strict guidelines regarding player location validation:
For Operators, a description of how the controls implemented to meet Standard 3.02 (players must be within the borders of Ontario) have been validated to ensure:
Accuracy and effectiveness of the controls across the majority of expected player device and network connection types including:
Compliance with requirement 3.02.1 dynamic monitoring of player location.
Compliance with requirement 3.02.2 common methods to circumvent controls are detected and/or prevented.
With dozens of sports betting and iGaming companies applying to operate in Ontario, geolocation services are an essential requirement. Existing U.S. customers, and new customers, have reached out to GeoComply to assist with their geofencing solutions in Ontario.
”Ontario is a very interesting opportunity for GeoComply, because almost all of the operators that are targeting the Ontario market also participate in the U.S. market,” Slader added. “The Canadian market is one which we would very much like to participate in.”
GeoComply currently holds a virtual monopoly on the U.S. online sports betting market.
“We welcome any competition. We still service nearly 100% of the market and are pretty proud of delivering a great service to those operators,” Slader said.