On April 4th Ontario sports betting launched with expanded online offerings to sports bettors, and interest in what the non-government owned and operated markets will look like is at an all-time high.
The prospect of U.S. firms finally being able to operate north of the border is creating much excitement in Ontario. In February, we got a look at what some of the market conditions would look like, when Western University in London, Ontario took the opportunity to host a panel on the topic, which PointsBet and FanDuel reps both attended.
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April 4th Ontario Sports Betting Launch
Before we get into what was said on the panel, the announcement of a date is worth focusing on.
Further news – including what sports books will be offered to consumers, how much operators will have to pay the government in revenue, and other loose ends – will be announced in time, but knowing the date is a huge step.
The date makes sense – it makes sure bettors have legal options for the NHL and NBA playoffs, as well as the end of the European soccer season, the Champions League semifinals and final, and the Masters, and it gets the issue taken care of before the upcoming election, which was a firm deadline (because otherwise the issue was going to be punted into the summer).
As for what Ontarians can expect, the conference had some useful information.
Western University Panel With PointsBet and FanDuel
What’s Their Pitch
Both FanDuel and PointsBet made the case for why their sites will be adapt to sports betting in Canada, and both made a similar pitch – essentially, that Canada isn’t the US, and that any player in the market who tries to pitch themselves in Ontario the same way they would in, say, New York, won’t work.
As FanDuel’s Senior Growth Director pointed out, ”One thing is really clear to me, Canada is not the U.S.”
“We’ve become the number one sportsbook in the U.S. Really proud of how we built that business. We’ve written the playbook on launching markets to this point. But we would be so naive to copy and paste that and bring that to Canada and then expect to win. We have to treat it very differently and we will treat it very differently.”
PointsBet’s Chief Commercial Officer made much the same point, focusing on the role legal curling betting will have, which would be a serious differentiator from how sportsbooks have operated south of the border.
This kind of explicit Canadian differentiation will be useful in cracking the Ontario market, especially as the priorities of Canadian bettors will be substantially different than those of American or British bettors.
What Does It Mean For Bettors?
One of the main complaints about the gray market status quo that Canadians have been living with for years is the inability to find reliable and consistent odds on sporting events that are hugely important parts of the Canadian sports calendar – like major curling events or junior hockey, to name but two.
If major US operators want to make the distinction between them and their competitors beyond the size of their bonus offerings, they will focus on the underserved events in the Canadian sports calendar that bettors have been unable to bet on, despite intense media focus and attention.
The sportsbook or sportsbooks that will find the most success in Canada will be the ones who find the way to offer odds on events, like the full slate of Canadian curling events, plus the World Junior Hockey Championships, and the weekly slate of Junior Hockey that takes place across Canada.
Odds for these events are sometimes available, but the unreliability of them has been a major drag on the market in recent years, and fixing that will be crucial for American operators coming north.
Any successful launch into Canada will recognize the huge growth in betting interest in events like the Scotties and the Brier, as well as the increased attention sports like tennis and golf have due to the elite Canadian talents competing on the world stage.