The nine-day Tim Hortons Canadian Olympic Curling Trials gave Canadian bettors an excellent alternative to betting on the Big Four sports leagues and served as a great warmup for both the upcoming Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the end of January and the Winter Olympics, which run from Feb. 4-20 in Beijing, China.
Shockingly, TV viewership for the curling trials beat out many other major Canadian sporting events last week, including high-profile games involving the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. Naturally, as viewership rises for the sport, so will its betting profile.
Tim Horton Olympic Curling Trials 🥌 🇨🇦
Primetime TV viewership (TSN)
Nov 20: 267k
Nov 21: 308k
Nov 22: 267k
Nov 23: 370k
Nov 24: 360k
Nov 25: 405k
— Adam Seaborn (@AHBSeaborn) November 26, 2021
The trials came to a dramatic conclusion Sunday, with two teams – Team Gushue and Team Jones – winning their respective matches to earn the right to represent Canada in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Team Gushue, which entered the event as the outright favorite (-110, according to TSN) on the men’s side to win the trials, edged past Team Jacobs, 4-3. Meanwhile, Team Jones (+815), which entered with the fourth-best outright odds in the women’s draw, completed the upset over Team Fleury with a thrilling 6-5 victory in an extra end (overtime).
The women’s final was a nail-biter, with both skips uncharacteristically missing some high-percentage shots in the final ends. Bettors that wagered on Jennifer Jones were put through the wringer, as she botched a straightforward takeout for two points in the 10th end for the win, sending the match to an extra end. Luck was on her side, though, as Tracy Fleury’s final stone in the extra end began to curl inwards and clanked the guard, sending Jones to her second Olympic Games.
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) November 29, 2021
How do oddsmakers set curling odds?
Canadian sportsbooks began taking curling odds more seriously once the COVID-19 outbreak temporarily halted play in the major sports leagues. In fact, niche sports like curling “experienced significant increases in betting activity in 2020,” Matt Lee from the British Columbia Lottery Corporation told Sports Handle. The BCLC launched single-game betting on its PlayNow platform on Aug. 27.
“Curling also sees increased betting activity for marquee events, such as the men’s and women’s world championships,” Lee added, “though the number of bets on niche sports, such as curling, are lower on PlayNow.com compared to the major professional sports leagues (NBA, NHL, NBA, MLB), as well as European soccer, tennis, and golf.”
BCLC oddsmakers consult with third-party vendor Scientific Games Corporation before setting lines. Scientific Games is a world leader in entertainment, offering dynamic games, systems, and services for casino, lottery, social gaming, online gaming, and sports betting. The BCLC and Scientific Games have an agreement through 2024.
Lee said odds are based on the probability of a team winning, as opposed to the geographic location of a competition. So here is no hometown bias in the odds, as oddsmakers will treat any British Columbian curling teams with the same value as teams from other parts of the country.
Different perspective at ALC
Much like their counterparts on the West Coast, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which provides provincially run sports betting offerings to the four provinces – Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island – sandwiched between Quebec and the Atlantic Ocean, is also seeing an increased interest in curling from its bettors.
“Curling is quite popular and not far behind tennis and MMA, despite having a less frequent presence on the list,” ALC Manager of Sports Betting Scott Eagles told Sports Handle. “Ultimately, like any sports betting operator, we have to be very careful about our lines and not being overly persuaded by public opinion and regional preferences.”
Unlike the BCLC, Eagles admits some hometown bias will appear in ALC’s curling odds.
“You’ll see some influence on our probabilities by virtue of a side being local,” Eagles added. “You’ll also see a little movement for North American teams which are popular in our jurisdiction, which tend to be those which get more TV time in our region. Still, we have to watch market averages, because for every point we move, there are sharp players watching for the added value on the other side and they strike quickly.”
Curling Canada partnerships
Earlier this month, PointsBet Canada announced a partnership with two of the curling teams that competed in the Olympic trials. Team Kevin Koe and Team Kerri Einarson, two high-profile Canadian curling squads, are the official partners.
— PointsBet Canada (@PointsBetCanada) November 11, 2021
PointsBet Canada is also the official sports betting partner of Curling Canada. PointsBet is one of the many private operators planning to launch in Ontario in early 2022, having already established an office in Toronto.
Since Canada’s Parliament last summer decriminalized single-event wagering at the federal level, provincially run lotteries have been able to offer single-game betting to customers in Canada. The legal framework surrounding how private companies will be able to operate in Ontario is still being drafted by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario. It’s unclear if there will be a cap on the number of private operators, and how they’ll be taxed by the province is among many details still to be sorted out.
Curling for Dummies
For those unfamiliar with curling, it’s believed to have originated in Scotland back in the 16th century. Two teams of four players each slide 40-pound granite rocks (also called stones) down a sheet of ice toward a target at the other end. Each team tries to get more of its stones closer to the center of the target than the other team over 10 ends (comparable to innings or periods), typically.
The sport was officially added to the Winter Olympics in 1998 as it gained popularity around the world, especially in northern countries. Men’s and women’s teams from Canada, Sweden, Scotland, and the United States have all enjoyed success in the Olympics and world championships.