Todres creates modern framework to conduct and manage the online business
Jesse Todres refers to himself as a “vice lawyer” as he enjoys the challenge of legalizing things – having helped to legalize cannabis, and more recently legalizing internet gaming in Ontario.
During his time as legal counsel with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, Todres had the opportunity to work on many interesting files. None peaked his interest more than the legalization of cannabis which eventually became his sole file. He helped develop the Cannabis Control Act and the Cannabis Licensing Act and put together the public use framework for cannabis in Ontario. Working closely with the Alcohol & Gaming Commission, Todres developed the new model.
From there, Todres went on to work at the Ontario Cabinet Office in a policy director role before the opportunity arose to join iGaming Ontario as senior legal counsel in 2021, working to develop a legal framework for the conduct and management of online gaming in the province.
“We have launched the first private internet gaming market in Canada so I’m incredibly proud of that,” says Todres, who was named general counsel and corporate secretary in May this year. “There is no other province that has a model like this, and quite frankly, there is really nothing like this in the world.” Todres says the launch has been a huge success with over 628,000 active player accounts, and $6 billion in cash wagers registered in the last quarter.
The small legal department – consisting only of Todres and one junior lawyer, in addition to a board relations advisor and a privacy officer – has developed a commercial contract and operating agreement that they enter into with internet gaming operators.
As general counsel, Todres manages and advises on legal risks and keeps tabs on emerging legal issues.
“It’s an incredibly dynamic legal space that we’re in,” says Todres. “When I first started, single event wagering was illegal in Canada, but since I came in the federal government passed changes to the criminal code to enable it, so we’re always keeping pace with changes in technology and in the law.”
As iGaming Ontario is a government agency, Todres works to ensure compliance with relevant legislation, treasury, board directives, government requirements and public reporting. He collaborates with the government on a number of initiatives and helps develop legislations, and he also takes responsibility for privacy. A privacy officer within Todres’ team works with operators to ensure that they have privacy policies that comply with requirements under the operating agreement, that they are doing privacy impact assessments and that they have a privacy and breach management protocol in place.
Todres is also involved in negotiations with the Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership on the sharing of revenues from gaming operations.
As corporate secretary, Todres also provides advice to the board of directors.
“It’s a new and very dynamic board so I’m helping to ensure that they’re able to provide strategic direction to the organization and meet all of the reporting requirements that are expected of a public sector board,” says Todres.
Now that the online gaming market has been launched in Ontario and the operating agreement has been developed, iGaming Ontario is shifting from its role as a start-up to a more mature organization. More operators are coming on board, and the focus for Todres has shifted to longer-term goals which include developing a risk management framework, and acquiring procurements as the operation expands.
Todres also hopes to grow his department to develop a centre of excellence where almost all the core functions can be managed internally.
“Given the diversity and complexity of the issues, I do want to expand my legal team, and I’d like it to be a one-stop shop where we have expertise in a number of areas, so we can really bring things in-house as much as possible,” he says.
The future looks bright for iGaming Ontario. Todres attributes the success of the launch in part to a “light touch model” which effectively balances compliance with the criminal code and other statutes to ensure that the risk management framework is properly integrated.
“We’ve done this in a way that is modern, that’s efficient, that builds on international best practices, and ultimately reduces burden and red tape for our partners – the internet gaming operators,” says Todres.