Good news for poker players hoping to get back to the live tables in Ontario, Canada. The provincial government led by Premier Doug Ford is giving the Ontario Lottery and Gaming a $500 million loan to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ontario poker rooms, which are located at the many casinos dotting Canada’s most populous province, have been closed since March when a state of emergency was declared in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. The line of credit will help Ontario Lottery and Gaming stay afloat during the shutdown and meet its contractual obligations.
It should be noted that unlike many casinos in the United States and elsewhere around the world, Ontario Lottery and Gaming has kept about 17,600 people employed since a global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization.
In March, Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips noted that the pandemic would hurt Ontario Lottery and Gaming significantly. In 2019, Ontario Lottery and Gaming contributed $2.3 billion Canadian to the provincial government, a number that could drop to around $800 million Canadian for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming operates the PlayOLG website, a government-regulated online casino and portal for buying lottery tickets. While some other provincial gaming institutions offer online poker (like PlayNow in British Colombia), online poker isn’t offered in Ontario, forcing players to seek games from offshore providers.
Live poker, however, is extremely popular at the province’s properties. Fallsview Casino Resort, located in Niagara Falls, is home to the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic. The last installment was held from February 16th through 23rd.
While many casinos in the province are governed by Ontario Lottery and Gaming, they are privately operated. Fallsview Casino Resort, for example, is operated by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment. And Rideau Carleton Casino, located in Ottawa, is transitioning to Hard Rock Ottawa.