It’s no secret that Canada’s sports scene is booming—and along with it, sports betting. Though parlays have long been legal and available through provincial lotteries, in 2021 the federal government granted provinces the right to legalize single-game wagering, and it’s expected that Ontario—home to many of Canada’s biggest sports teams, including the Maple Leafs, Senators, Raptors, and the Blue Jays—will lead the charge.
Legal sports betting in Canada
There have been efforts to legalize single-game wagering in Canada for years, but in 2021 these efforts picked up steam in a big way.
After the United States Supreme Court overturned PASPA, the federal prohibition on sports betting in 2018, many, including professional sports leagues themselves, embraced wagering on sports after opposing it for many years. Since most of Canada’s most popular sports teams belong to U.S.-based leagues, it only makes sense that this upsurge in popularity would ripple across the border.
The campaign to legalize sports betting in Canada reached a head in 2021, when C-218, a game-changing bill was introduced in Parliament.
The bill was deceptively simple: it would alter the national criminal code to allow provinces to legalize single-game sports betting (the only exception being for horse racing). Since sports betting enjoys broad support throughout Canada, this would naturally mean that single-game wagering would be launched in most, if not all, of the provinces.
The bill passed the House of Commons in February, but languished in the Senate for months. Although there was concern that the bill would not be passed before Parliament’s summer recess (or before the announcement of a snap election, which was already rumored), C-218 finally passed Parliament on June 23. On that day, sports bettors and fans throughout Canada rejoiced.
Date of implementation
For some time during the summer, ambiguity existed regarding when the law would go into effect. When Parliament passes a law, it must receive approval, called Royal Assent, from Canada’s Governor General, the appointed (and largely ceremonial) representative of the Queen. Then, the Prime Minister must set a date for the law to go into effect. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was initially expected to set that date for late 2021, it was announced that legal sports betting would launch in Canada on August 27.
Now, the rest is up to provincial governments. First, specific bills legalizing sports betting will need to pass in each regional legislature. Then, each province will need to determine how to incorporate sports betting into their existing gambling infrastructure; most likely, this will mean that provinces will add single-game betting to their existing provincial-run online sportsbooks.
Legal sports betting in Ontario
Ontario has a long history of support for single-game sports betting and has long been regarded as a potential gold mine for sports betting in Canada. This is because Ontario is the most populous Canadian province (boasting nearly 15 million residents), shares a border with Michigan and New York, both populous American states, and is the headquarters of some of Canada’s biggest sports teams.
Even before Parliament passed C-218, the Ontario Legislature had been discussing measures to loosen regulations on sports betting, particularly online wagering. Now that C-218 has passed, Ontario is on its way to a competitive single-game sports betting marketplace.
Ontario Sports Betting Market
It’s important to note that sports betting already existed in Ontario prior to the passage of C-218—in one legally sanctioned form and one not-so-legal form. OLG ProLine is a legal betting option in Ontario that allows bettors to wager on parlays, in which each bet consists of two or more wagers. Parlays are better than nothing, but they are not very popular in Canada because of the difficulty of winning a wager.
The other wagering option in Ontario is through unlicensed offshore books, which operate without a license—and take in nearly C$4 billion every year. Prior to the passage of C-218, single-game wagering was not legal but was also not explicitly illegal either, which allowed offshore sportsbooks to operate without being prosecuted. The popularity of offshore sportsbooks, coupled with the C$10 billion that goes through illegal domestic operations each year, is money that Ontario will doubtless be happy to have moving through legal channels.
Projected launch of legal sports betting in provinces
While legal single-game sports betting became legal in Canada on August 27th, each provincial gaming commission is working on a different timeline for implementing sports betting in their existing infrastructure. Right now, the aforementioned ProLine sportsbook offered by the Ontario lottery will offer single-game wagers while provincial officials simultaneously craft a new regulatory structure that will potentially allow for additional operators to come to Ontario later on.
Further west, Play Now, the excellent sports betting product offered by the British Columbia Lottery Commission, added single-game wagering to its existing sportsbook on August 27. Same with Quebec, which will also add single-game wagering to its existing Loto Quebec online sportsbook. Officials with the Alberta lottery commission have announced their intentions to open an online sportsbook with single-game wagering sometime in fall 2021.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation—the gaming commission that governs gambling in the small provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador—has suggested that it will undertake the same process to bring single-game wagering to the Atlantic provinces once they each authorize it.
AGCO and Ontario sports betting
All this means that Ontario’s plans remain the most concrete as of now. For months, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has been developing, discussing, and soliciting feedback for their iGaming program, which will make various online sportsbooks available to consumers.
The AGCO’s main objective is to offer fans a market for online sports betting that is also safe and on the legal up-and-up, keeping the market free from illicit ventures like game manipulation and insider betting. Doing so, they hope, will offer a market that balances choice with safety.
Most recently, the ACGO collected feedback and input from sports betting stakeholders in order to gain a better idea of what the iGaming market should look like. Its feedback period ended on August 18, so sports bettors should soon have a better idea of what Ontario’s system will look like.
Beyond this, the timeline on Ontario’s sports betting launch has not yet been hammered out. However, the ACGO has reported that the open, competitive iGaming market should be launching by the end of 2021, so more details should become available soon.
Projected Ontario Online Sportsbooks
Even before ACGO’s iGaming market launches, fans and bettors are already eagerly anticipating which sportsbooks will be available when the service launches this year.
As the government of Ontario has previously expressed interest in including online and mobile sportsbooks in its betting schemes, it seems like a safe bet (pun intended) that major online sportsbooks will come to Ontario at some point. Here are a few major books that should make their way to Ontario sooner rather than later:
FanDuel already ranks as one of the strongest online sportsbooks on the market, and it’s also SportsHandle’s top-rated sportsbook on desktop and mobile devices. Though it boasts competitive pricing and a number of props and futures options, what will make it truly competitive in Ontario’s sports betting goldrush will be its accessibility.
FanDuels’ user experience is highly refined, smooth to use, and easy to transfer money into, meaning that it will likely be a compelling option for Ontarians looking for a new form of betting.
DraftKings Sportsbook was the first legal sportsbook in the United States outside of Nevada, and since its 2018 launch, it has established itself as an extremely solid option for both new and experienced bettors. Like FanDuel, DraftKings is easy to navigate, offers a wide variety of betting opportunities, and is fast and secure with transactions.
On the flipside, however, its pricing is not always the best among other top-tier sportsbooks, and Ontarians who know the standard costs for sportsbooks may be disappointed.
PointsBet Sportsbook is a relative newcomer to the sportsbook world, but it offers an innovative and attractive form of betting that may be quite lucrative when it hits the Ontario market. For one, PointsBet offers generous signup bonuses and promotions, strong pricing, and a good mobile user experience.
But it’s also the only book where you can use its unique PointsBetting system, a high-risk, high-reward form of betting that increasingly rewards bettors relative to where the number associated with their bet lands. This novel and exciting form of betting might be a hit for bettors in Ontario looking to make it big.
Caesars already owns a massively successful casino in Windsor, so its brand recognition and popularity in the province are well established. Caesars has long owned and managed casinos throughout the US and Canada, but its success hasn’t translated to a successful online sportsbook. The company hopes to change that with its new and improved Caesars Sportsbook, which was rolled out in August 2021. Chances are Caesars would love to bring its new sportsbook to Ontario to complement its existing casino.
A joint venture by MGM Resorts International (one of the largest gambling organizations on the planet) and GVC Holdings (one the biggest gambling companies in Europe), BetMGM is a sportsbook whose brand recognition is backed up by its stability. BetMGM offers competitive pricing, a stable app, and a solid betting range.
Though it has some kinks, including a less-than-stellar aesthetic, the resources backing up BetMGM will allow it to grow in exciting ways in the coming year—and it’s a sure thing that its strong branding will attract Ontarians new to the sports betting scene.
Unlike the other sportsbooks on this list, theScore Bet is actually a Canadian company, born and bred in the Great White North. Importantly, theScore was originally (and still is) a statistics and news website for sports fans, and that remains its core aim—which makes the user experience of theScore Bet, its sportsbook arm, a bit wonky and confusing, particularly for new users.
But beyond those quibbles, theScore Bet is a very strong virtual sportsbook, offering an organic user experience and a wide array of markets. Keep an eye on theScore Bet as a book that will do well among Canadians who are transitioning from being fans of sports alone to full-on bettors.
While some online sportsbooks go after casual fans and others look for those searching for extra thrills, Bet365 tailors its experience to those who like their betting to be backed up by plenty of information.
The desktop book is no-frills, prioritizing informed betting decisions over slick aesthetics (in fact, sometimes things get a little cluttered), and this is a great thing for seasoned bettors and newcomers alike. When this book hits Ontario, it could become many people’s entryway into the entire world of sports betting.
Ontario Sports Teams
Ontario’s capital city, Toronto, is not only the largest city in Canada but also a hub for many of the nation’s most popular sports teams. These teams will help take Ontario to the stratosphere when it comes to single-game betting.
Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
As the biggest NHL hockey team in a country where hockey is absolutely beloved, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the Canadian sports team. While hockey isn’t an especially large fixture in sports betting in the United States, it only makes sense that that will change once legal sports betting reaches Canada—and the most popular team will be, without a doubt, the Maple Leafs. With dominating talent and a spot in the hearts of millions of Canadians, the Leafs alone are sure to make a splash on every sportsbook.
Ottawa Senators (NHL)
Residing in Canada’s capital, the Ottawa Senators don’t boast the level of prestige or success that the Leafs do. In fact, the team has fallen on some rough times on the ice, sometimes failing to eke out winning seasons (in fact, they’ve had their share of historically bad ones)—but none of that dims their prospect for Ontario’s sports betting scene.
On the contrary, the size of NHL hockey in Canada is expected to radiate into the Senators’ franchise, and they’re poised to be a fixture of Canadian sports betting.
Toronto Raptors (NBA)
Basketball is the second-most bet-on sport in North America, just behind football, and the Raptors are the biggest reason that you should expect that fact to remain true once legal betting launches in Ontario. The Raptors have rapidly become one of the most popular teams in Canadian sports, buoyed by their consistently strong performance and their NBA championship season in 2019.
In fact, the Raptors enjoy a strong following throughout Canada, especially as the nation’s only NBA team at present. This means that once Canadians can begin placing bets on basketball, they’re sure to flood money into their hometown champions.
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
Since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C. (and became the future World Series-winning Washington Nationals), the Toronto Blue Jays have been the only Canadian Major League Baseball team. This means that, like the Raptors, they draw a viewing and betting audience from all over Ontario and the country at large—which will mean, in turn, a healthy number of enthusiastic bettors later this year.
An extra boon for the Blue Jays is that baseball is a mainstay among sportsbooks due to its high volume of statistics and its large number of games. That means that there’s always something to bet on, and there will always be people betting on the Blue Jays.
Top Ontario Brick and Mortar Casinos
While we may be a ways off from being able to legally wager in-person at retail sportsbooks in Ontario, there are several large casinos in the province that will no doubt be ready to open large sportsbooks when allowed to do so. Let’s go over some of the biggest retail casinos in the province:
Caesars Windsor is a luxury resort and casino that brings the classic luxury Las Vegas casino experience right to Ontario. From table games to the 2,500+ slot machines, the Caesars Windsor Casino offers a wide range of traditional gambling and betting entertainment activities. Notably, the Caesars brand has a sports app called Caesars Sportsbook, which can be connected to the Caesars Rewards loyalty program, allowing users to gain rewards credits regardless of the outcome of their sports bets.
Casino Niagara is a hallmark tourist attraction in the Niagara region of Canada. Equipped with 40+ gaming tables and over 1,300 slot machines, Casino Niagara has plenty of opportunities to enjoy various games of chance, not to mention restaurants and regular live entertainment. In addition, for Canadians interested in sports betting, Casino Niagara features more than 50 televisions in their sports viewing area, allowing patrons to stay updated on a wide array of current sporting events.
Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
Managed by the same company as Casino Niagara (and only a short drive away), Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort provides a luxury resort experience alongside a remarkably expansive casino facility. The casino includes over 3,000 slot machines and 130+ table games, allowing for endless hours of entertainment for resort guests. Although sports betting is not currently available at Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, much like at Casino Niagara, there is ample opportunity to keep up with sporting events in their sports viewing areas.
Casino Rama Resort is an extremely popular resort centered around a high end casino, featuring table games and over 1,700 slot machines. Casino Rama is also Ontario’s only First Nations Resort casino and is located on Rama First Nation. Like other combination resorts and casinos, visiting Casino Rama has the advantage of being able to enjoy both the gambling entertainment and resort amenities, including a spa. In regards to sports betting, Casino Rama does not have an onsite sports betting parlor, but there are plenty of spaces for watching sporting events on television.
Gateway Casinos Sault Ste. Marie
Gateway Casinos Sault Ste. Marie is a full-time casino that features both slot machines and table games. This Gateway Casinos location also includes an in-casino restaurant that offers meals and light snacks throughout the day. Currently, Gateway Casinos only offers horse racing in their British Columbia location, but it is likely that the company would jump at the opportunity to offer retail sports betting in its British Columbia and Ontario locations.
Ontario Sports Betting FAQ
When will single-game betting be available in Ontario?
Single-game wagering is currently available on ProLine, the provincial-run online sportsbook, having gone live on August 27, 2021. Ontario is expected to launch its iGaming marketplace, which would include outside sportsbooks like DraftKings, BetMGM, and FanDuel, by the end of 2021.
What is Ontario's plan for single-game wagering?
Ontario’s gaming commission, the AGCO, published a paper listing ideas and priorities for its virtual sports betting marketplace, called iGaming Ontario. The endeavor aims to offer bettors choices in placing bets while also protecting the market from hazards like illicit bets, fixed bets, and the like. Its plan includes eventually allowing outside sportsbooks to operate in an open, competitive model that has been very successful in American states such as New Jersey and Colorado.
Is sports betting legal in Canada?
Sports betting will not be federally illegal in Canada as of August 27, 2021. However, it is up to individual provinces to decide whether they want to legalize sports betting within their particular jurisdictions. If a province decides to legalize single-game wagering, they can do so any time after August 27.
Will there be online sportsbooks in Ontario?
Yes. Ontario’s government has made it clear that they intend to allow for multiple online sportsbooks to be part of the iGaming marketplace, so it’s likely that existing online sportsbooks will launch in Ontario at some point.
Will I be able to bet with American operators like DraftKings in Ontario?
The answer to that question is unclear. While it is likely that the AGCO will want to include online sportsbooks in its iGaming venture, there has not been official word on whether governments will allow American companies to operate in Canada.
That said, companies like DraftKings have already begun to expand their non-betting operations in Canada, suggesting that they are optimistic about the prospect of all their products reaching the Canadian market.
Can I use online sportsbooks while I'm in Ontario even if I don't live there?
Online sportsbooks use geotagging to determine whether a user is accessing their service from a region where sports betting is legal. That means that if you attempt to log on from a region where sports betting is not legal, you won’t be able to access the services. However, you are free to use a sportsbook while visiting Ontario, even if you live somewhere else. You also do not have to be an Ontario resident to open a sportsbook account.
Can you bet on sports in Ontario retail casinos?
Not at this time, though there is hope that legalized single-game sports betting will eventually be extended to retail casinos throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada.
Can Canadians bet on American sports?
Yes. While the location where you can place bets will be different, you can place bets on any sport that’s available on the book, which can be from all over the world.
Does Ontario tax sports betting?
Yes, sports betting is considered taxable income and the sportsbooks will also be taxed on the revenues they gain from sports betting. However, the precise details of taxation have not yet been determined for mobile sports betting.
What is the legal age to bet on sports in Ontario?
The legal sports betting age in Ontario is 19. Each Canadian province sets its own rules on gambling and the minimum gambling age. In Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, the minimum age is 18, while in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan, the legal age is 19.