Betfair gave its Canadian customers a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings last week when it informed them that they will no longer be able to use the site. Betfair’s customers were sent the following brief e-mail:
We are sorry to inform you that as of 14th January 2016, Betfair’s products will no longer be available to residents of Canada.
On 14th January 2016 Canadian residents will no longer be able to place bets and Betfair shall close its website. All outstanding Sportsbook bets will be cancelled, you will no longer be able to place new exchange bets and all gaming products will be blocked. Please note that all outstanding Exchange bets will remain in place until 14th January 2016, so please ensure you manage any positions you have open in advance of this date.
Please also ensure you withdraw any funds you have in advance of 14th January 2016. You will only be able to withdraw any winnings, or leftover funds after 14th January by contacting our helpdesk.
No explanation has been given as to why the company is withdrawing from the Canadian market. It very well could be related to Betfair’s upcoming merger with Ireland-based Paddy Power, though that is just speculation. The two companies announced their engagement in August and last Monday, shareholders of both companies overwhelmingly voted to approve the combination. It is this most recent development, the approval vote, which could be the catalyst for the Canada decision.
Paddy Power withdrew from the Canadian market in early 2011, also with no reason given, so it is very possible that Betfair wanted to align its policies with its new spouse sooner rather than later. Betfair stopped marketing to Canada several years ago.
A number of other online gambling sites have pulled out of Canada in recent years, including Matchbook, Ladbrokes, Titan Poker, and Mansion Poker. The popular e-wallet Skrillalso stopped providing its payment processing services to internet gambling customers in 2014.
In September, Amaya Gaming, a Canada-based company, launched its daily fantasy sports site, StarsDraft (re-branded after purchasing Victiv.com), but upon launch excluded Canadian customers even though they were allowed to play before Amaya bought the site.
In Canada, internet gambling is controlled on the provincial level. Quebec has been at the center of a growing controversy, as it introduced a bill that would require internet service providers to block unlicensed online gambling sites. The initiative was first brought up in March in the province’s 2015-2016 budget plan as a way to stop sites from being able to compete with Loto-Quebec’s gaming site, Espace-jeux.
Quebec didn’t even really try to hide the fact that this was a protectionist measure, as it readily admitted that the state-run gambling site could see a $13.5 million revenue boost if mandatory IP-blocking was put in place.
Quebec also began floating the idea of issuing online gambling licenses to sites other than Espace-jeux in 2014 and it was rumored that Amaya was at the top of the list. So far, though, that hasn’t happened. It is possible that companies have decided that Canada is “gray” enough of an online gambling market that it is best to get out in order to remain on the good side of regulators in other regulated markets.