Single-event sports betting in Canada went live Aug. 27, providing Canadian bettors with ample time to place wagers on NFL season-long futures before the regular season starts next week. (Four NFL teams — the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Seattle Seahawks — play in stadiums located within 75 miles of the Canadian border.)
Already, the nation’s largest province has provided encouraging results, as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced Wednesday that it handled more than C$1 million over the first five days of legal single-event sports betting across Ontario. Of all wagers placed on the new Proline online sportsbook, the platform used by the OLG, approximately 74% were bets placed under the single-event variety.
Although Canadians have been able to legally wager on parlays for decades, the historic passage of Bill C-218 in June decriminalized wagering on single events such as the Super Bowl. Ontario’s population of roughly 14.8 million would make the province a Top 10 market were it located in the U.S.
The launch of single-event betting by the provincial lottery gives the OLG a head start before Ontario opens the iGaming market to private operators in the coming months.
“Ontario bettors had been waiting for a best-in-class option to place bets and that’s exactly what OLG has delivered with PROLINE+,” said Dave Pridmore, OLG chief digital and strategy officer, in a statement. “This product is competitive and exciting and players are seeing that.”
Ontario appears to be off to a decent start thanks to a strong advertising push ahead of the launch, said Paul Burns, who serves as CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. A provincial lottery’s willingness to spend heavily on marketing could differentiate an operator’s ability to acquire and retain customers as the Canadian market expands.
“Proline is a brand that OLG has had for years, with good customer loyalty — those customers until now all had to go to a retail lottery location, so they now have an online outlet,” Burns told Sports Handle.
Progress in other parts of Canada
Ontario figures to receive stiff competition from British Columbia in the race for the most robust sports betting market in Canada. While British Columbia has a population of around 5 million, the province has grown rapidly at a rate of 5-7% since the early 2000s. The province is also home to several professional sports franchises, most notably the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, the CFL’s BC Lions, and the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS.
Over the first week of single-event sports betting, 1,208 new players in B.C. registered for accounts on PlayNow.com, the sports betting platform used by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). As a result, PlayNow experienced a 96% increase in the number of wagers and a 72% increase in the amount of money wagered compared to the previous weekend, a BCLC spokesman told Sports Handle. To illustrate the appeal of single-event sports betting, 41% of last weekend’s wagers were on single games, and 53.5% of the money wagered was from singles.
Oddly enough, bettors wagered approximately C$40,000 on a boxing bout between Jake Paul and Tyron Woodley on Aug. 29, with the matchup accounting for almost half of the bets in the province. According to the BCLC, 92.6% of the bets made on the fight were singles. Paul improved to 4-0 with a split-decision victory over Woodley.
Over the last five years, the BCLC estimates that it lost as much as C$250 million in revenue from customers who placed wagers on offshore unregulated sports betting sites. Canadians wager about $14 billion (in American dollars) on single-event sports annually, according to Parliamentary research.
At least three other provincial lotteries — the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission (AGLC), and Loto-Québec — have launched single-game sports betting products. Manitoba, too, is offering singles on the PlayNow platform. As with British Columbia, Alberta is home to a handful of pro sports teams, including the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, as well as two franchises in the CFL.
But the AGLC’s rollout has been met with criticism for an apparent hurried product that received low marks for lacking visual appeal.
Single game betting goes live on Friday in Canada. Alberta (province with 4 professional sports teams and 20 casinos) does nothing.
Today, they launched an incredibly rushed product that looks terrible, performs worse and is wildly disadvantageous for customers… pic.twitter.com/SnaPKSZWwT
— Adam Chernoff (@adamchernoff) September 1, 2021
One topic to monitor as Canada rolls out singles on a provincial basis surrounds odds disparities in various markets. For instance, PlayNow gave the Toronto Maple Leafs odds of 9/1 to win the 2022 Stanley Cup, as of Wednesday afternoon. The odds are in line with futures in the States at DraftKings, where the Leafs are 10/1. Conventional wisdom suggests that the odds would be less favorable in Ontario due to a hometown bias, but the Leafs on Wednesday were 13/1 on Proline.
As of Sept. 1, only Ontario has announced plans to launch a private market for singles, Burns noted. A delayed rollout in other provinces could give the lottery corporations a considerable first-mover advantage in building player databases.
“On future rollouts, Ontario is the only province that has firm plans to invite private operated sportsbooks into the market; others are evaluating or are unlikely at this point,” Burns said. “We are eager to see casinos have access to retail sportsbooks as soon as possible, but there is nothing firm on that front yet.”
A hot start from the provincial lottery corporations could compel some provinces to push back plans for opening their markets to private operators, another source told Sports Handle on the condition of anonymity.
A bevy of top sportsbook operators are expected to apply for sports betting licensure in Ontario. The list may include the likes of DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, PointsBet, and Toronto-based theScore, among others.