Each Thursday, Sports Handle will recap all the top sports betting news in Canada, highlight the Game of the Week, and take a look ahead at some of the most intriguing Canadian games to bet on over the weekend.
Our top Canadian sports stories this week
- BCLC Targeting Canucks Fans With Prize-Loaded Promotion
- PointsBet Canada Announces Partnership With NHL Alumni Association
- This Week’s Hottest Bets In The NHL: Predators Feasting On Opponents
Game of the Week
Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat — Jan. 17
Raptors fans have had this date circled on their calendars since August when beloved point guard Kyle Lowry joined the Heat in a sign-and-trade deal. Lowry, who spent nine memorable seasons in Toronto and is arguably the greatest Raptors player of all time, will square off against his former team for the first time since heading to South Beach.
He holds the franchise’s all-time records in a number of major statistical categories including total assists, steals, 3-pointers made, and triple-doubles, while ranking second in points, games played, and minutes played. He was also instrumental in leading the Raptors to their first NBA title in 2019.
Monday will be an emotional night for Lowry and the Raptors, even though the game is being played in Miami. The Heat are scheduled to play in Toronto on Feb. 1, but it’s uncertain if fans will be allowed back into the stands for Lowry’s highly anticipated return to Canada. Ontario‘s government has implemented strict COVID capacity measures at sporting events in Canada until at least Jan. 26, but there’s a possibility those measures will be extended.
Odds aren’t yet available for this game, but both teams have some interesting betting trends this year. Toronto is 23-15 over/under while Miami is 25-16 o/u and 24-17 against the spread heading into action Thursday.
Ontario’s reaction to NY’s online betting launch
Online sports betting launched this past Saturday morning in the state of New York, with four major operators — FanDuel, BetRivers, Caesars, and DraftKings — getting the green light to open up. There were roughly 17.2 million bets placed by midnight Sunday in the state, with nearly 50% of those wagers coming from the five boroughs in New York City.
Those staggering numbers are catching the attention of key players in the Ontario sports betting industry, which is expected to open up to private operators in February or March, according to industry sources.
“I think it’s fair to say upon market open Ontario will exhibit a passion for sports betting similar to what New York showed this past weekend,” PointsBet Canada Chief Commercial Officer Nick Sulsky told Sports Handle. “Our proud sports fans are equally excited for safe, legal gaming options.”
Canadians tuning in to the final week of the NFL regular season this past weekend were bombarded with unprecedented levels of sports betting advertisements as the New York market launched. It was a running joke south of the border.
I haven’t seen an online sports betting ad in almost 7 minutes. Am I dead?
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) January 9, 2022
“I think Ontarians are seeing a small sample, through some of the TV advertising on [Buffalo stations’] weekend sports broadcasts, of the choice that will be available to sports bettors when the Ontario online market opens,” Canadian Gaming Association President & CEO Paul Burns told Sports Handle. “Ontario sports bettors will have much more choice than those in New York State. It just increases the anticipation of what’s coming to Ontario.”
Dozens of private operators are expected to jump into Ontario’s sports betting market and compete with each other upon approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario. With a population of roughly 15 million, Ontario’s market could generate close to $1 billion in sports betting revenue in the first year once the market opens. Currently, Canadian bettors can only legally wager with provincially run lotteries and sportsbooks, such as PROLINE + in Ontario.
Manitoba sports betting projections discussed
The Manitoba Legislative Assembly gathered virtually Tuesday to discuss findings of the annual report for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) for the fiscal year ending March 2021. President and CEO of MBLL Manny Atwal quickly spoke about iGaming and sports betting revenue projections, stating the corporation expects revenue of $50-$60 million this fiscal year alone through its overall PlayNow.com online gaming platform.
He estimates that sports wagering accounts for only 2% or 3% of that $50-$60 million total iGaming projection. However, Atwal says that sports betting is a great acquisition tool for the corporation, as roughly 90% of sports bettors on PlayNow are also playing casino games on the site. PlayNow is Manitoba’s only legal online sports betting site. Sports bettors can also wager at Sport Select retail locations across the province.
Atwal projects the overall iGaming market in Manitoba is worth between $75 million and $150 million, but says PlayNow’s biggest issue is winning back customers from illegal sites. He’s encouraging stronger brand awareness.
“PlayNow.com is safe, it’s legal, it ensures that your money is safe and you receive the winnings you’re entitled to. The money stays in Manitoba,” Atwal noted. “We need to get Manitobans to know more about it.”
MBLL has not announced any plans to allow private sportsbook operators into the Manitoba market.
NorthStar Gaming partners with Playtech
On Tuesday, NorthStar Gaming announced a new partnership with Playtech, one of the world’s leading gambling technology companies.
This will allow NorthStar Gaming to launch Playtech’s IMS platform for casino, live casino, poker, iGaming, and sports betting upon completion of regulatory approvals with the province of Ontario. NorthStar is based in Toronto and launched as an online betting brand in March 2021 after partnering with Torstar Corp., a mass media company that owns Canada’s largest print newspaper, the Toronto Star.
NorthStar Gaming “believes its Canadian-owned gaming business will lead the industry, operate at the highest level of responsible gaming standards, and ensure more of our local players’ entertainment dollars stay in the province,” as found on the company’s LinkedIn page.
Ontario, which released final iGaming, sports, and event betting regulatory standards in October, is preparing to open the province to private competition sometime in Q1 of 2022. For now, sports bettors can only legally wager with provincially run lotteries.
Playtech, founded in 1999, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and powers the technology behind European online bookmakers Ladbrokes and Paddy Power. It also owns and operates Snaitech, the leading online gaming company in Italy.
Booker vs. The Raptor
Basketball games are strange in Ontario right now, as local COVID-19 restrictions have forced the Toronto Raptors to play without any fans in the stands. But one observer — the Raptors mascot — is trying to make up for nearly 20,000 screaming fans all on his own. Tuesday night, the mascot known as “The Raptor” got under the skin of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker by jumping and waving frantically behind the net with the game hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter.
been a long time since ive laughed this hard. *this* is what Booker was mad at. look at that verticality!!! pic.twitter.com/IodruVIsbZ
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 12, 2022
At the time, the Suns, who were favored by four to six points depending on where you shopped in Canada, were up by one point with less than seven seconds to play. Booker, who is shooting an impressive 87% from the line this year, hit both of his free throw attempts, but made officials banish the mascot to the corner of the court, out of his field of view after the first attempt. The Suns went on to win the game by four points.
Toronto spread bettors were surely loving the antics from the Raptors mascot, despite his failure to impact Booker’s shooting. It’s a good thing Booker plays in the modern era, because there were far bigger distractions for free throw shooters back in 1989. Just ask Larry Bird.
Devin Booker would absolutely faint pic.twitter.com/VTImQtVzRc
— G (@g_had13) January 12, 2022