AGCO Appoints Dave Forestell as New Board Chair
There has been swift movement at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) in the past week. The regulatory agency was hit with a bit of a surprise early last week due to the news that Chari of its Board of Directors Lalit Aggarwal would be stepping down.
Aggarwal cited the desire to spend more time with his family and to focus on other business affairs. It put ACGO in the position to make a rapid pivot to fill the role. It took three days, but they found his replacement, Dave Forestell. The Board’s Vice-Chair, Heidi Reinhart, had been acting in the Chair’s responsibilities in the aftermath of Aggarwal’s departure after four years.
Forestell first came to prominence within the gaming regulatory industry in 2018. In December of that year, he was appointed to iGaming Ontario’s Board of Directors. His new role as Chair of iGaming Ontario would be combined with his duties at the Ontario Crown agency at the time. iGO works as a subsidiary of AGCO, working to regulate the newly regulated Ontario online gaming market.
With his new responsibilities for AGCO, Forestell has stepped down as the Chair of iGO. His first responsibility is to appoint his successor as the Chair of iGO. It is not the only hat he wears as he is currently the Vice President, External Relations in Canada for TC Energy.
Forestell’s history includes Vice President, International Corporate and Commercial Banking and Vice President, Office of the President, and CEO at Scotiabank. He enters at a time of amazing growth in the industry, leading to a major boon for both AGCO and the Ontario government.
Moving forward, the primary goal of iGO will be to continue providing support to players while also working to protect against underage gambling. There are also gambling addiction experts that have been expressing concern about the 24/7 access to online gambling.
With billions in wagers being made every month, those concerns only continue to grow.
The early success of the regulated market is better received when considering the “grey market” of different online gambling options. While there are some reputable “offshore” gambling sites, there are many more that take advantage of players on a regular basis. By implementing legal, regulated places to play, the hope is that those numbers will begin to dwindle.
These new measures are meant to provide more responsible gaming while also preventing underage access. Moreover, it is meant to ensure that applicable laws, such as anti-money laundering rules, are followed and properly regulated.
The task of regulating the online gaming industry in Ontario fell on iGaming Ontario (iGO). Before the official launch, there were concerns about protecting consumer data and providing appropriate support for those who struggle with problem gambling.
In response, the province has provided more than $30 million, $25 million of which goes to treatment programs, to provide assistance with problem gambling. With an increased number of player accounts and rising revenues, the focus will be on providing stronger support with an eye toward continued expansion.
As of Q1 2023, more than 920,000 player accounts were active throughout the province, with the average player spending C$197 per month. Over that period, $11.6 billion in total wagers were placed, leading to $392 million in gaming revenue. That growth compared to the first operating quarter of 2022 shows major growth, though it is just a stepping-stone to current revenues (more on that below).
With the introduction of a regulated online gambling market, including peer-to-peer poker, sports betting, and casino games, all eyes were watching to see what the numbers would be like. The numbers were strong to start and have only gained momentum.
In the first quarter under the newly regulated market, there were just over $4 billion in wagers made by Ontarians. That resulted in $162 million in revenues for AGCO during the first equivalent quarter in 2022. Those numbers a year later have grown exponentially.
For the April-June 2023 quarter, total wagers were up to $14 billion. More than $11 billion alone went to casino-related wagers, including computer-based and live table games, peer-to-peer bingo, and slots of all kinds. Another $2 billion went to betting on sports, eSports, and prop/novelty bets. Finally, $350 million was wagered on peer-to-peer poker.
Those wagers were able to generate $545 million in total gaming revenues for the quarter. It is estimated that the Ontario government received somewhere around $260 million from gaming revenues over the first year of market operation.