BetMGM has aired a glitzy commercial featuring Wayne Gretzky, titled “With Every Tap, A New Legend Is Born.” PointsBet has assembled an all-star cast for its Canadian team. FanDuel announced the hiring of a former Rogers Communication executive last week to head a new Canada division.
Rush Street Interactive (RSI), however, plans to stick to its “bread and butter” formula for leveraging its large suite of online casino products as it makes sports betting inroads into Canada.
RSI made its official foray into Canada this month with the launch of a free-to-play social sportsbook and CASINO4FUN, a social casino product. The free-to-play online casino and sportsbook are both available on mobile devices, tablets, desktop, and laptop computers for Ontarians aged 19 and older at BetRivers.net, RSI announced.
“Our expansion into Canada represents an exciting new frontier for RSI and continues our growth across the Americas,” said Richard Schwartz, chief executive officer of Rush Street Interactive, in a statement. “CASINO4FUN offers our community of players the same high level of entertainment and customer service of RSI’s real-money gaming platform, delivered in a casual and free-to-play setting.”
An opportunity to ‘plant its flag’ in Canada
Rush Street’s real-money online gaming platform includes approximately 350 slot machine and table game products, with additional bonusing and loyalty features. With the launch, Canada became the third nation in which RSI operates online gaming platforms. The company is using the same proprietary technology in Canada that it utilizes for powering its real-money platforms in the U.S. and Latin America, RSI noted in the statement. The company’s social sportsbook, meanwhile, features many of BetRivers‘ online sportsbook products, but in a more “casual, free-to-play setting.”
— Open Outcrier (@OpenOutcrier) October 14, 2021
“They see opportunities to plant their flag,” an industry expert told Sports Handle. “RSI is making a shrewd decision to focus on the online casino element and let that be how they build their brand and presence in Canada.”
Whereas some sportsbook operators are focusing on a low-margin, high-volume model for generating revenue, RSI is reverting back to its core competencies with a strong emphasis on online gaming and online casino, according to the source. As RSI expands its online sports betting offerings across the U.S., it can be easy to forget that the company “made its hay” through online casino, the source explains. Consequently, expect RSI to use its online casino product as a brand awareness tool, as the company looks to build its player database throughout Ontario over the next 12 months and beyond.
Still, RSI is entering choppy waters in Ontario, an attractive market that is expected to be as competitive as the top states on the East Coast. Beyond the household names among operators in the U.S., a number of gray-market operators have an established base in Canada from years of business there, said Paul Burns, chief executive officer for the Canadian Gaming Association. The crowded market will put pressure on sportsbooks from the outset to find creative ways to differentiate themselves.
“The newer entrants like RSI, PointsBet, and BetMGM will provide greater choice for customers, expand the market, and bring new bettors into the market,” Burns told Sports Handle. “There are lots of sports fans in Canada who are eager to see what’s coming.”
On the sports betting side, RSI is already ahead of the curve with certain offerings. Four months before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, BetRivers has already posted a slew of odds on top sports at the winter games. Canada is the heavy favorite to win gold in men’s ice hockey, ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee and Sweden.
Its men’s ice hockey futures:
- Canada +250
- Russian Olympic Committee +450
- Sweden +750
- U.S. +800
- Finland +1100
- Czech Republic +1800
Sports for show, while iGaming brings in dough
In September, three U.S. states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — generated at least $97 million each in gross gaming revenue (GGR) from online casino wagering, topped by the Garden State at $122.6 million. Michigan set a new state monthly record with total online gaming receipts of $102.4 million. Through September, New Jersey has generated online casino GGR of $988.7 million, already exceeding the full 2020 total by approximately $18 million.
While the allure of sports betting has produced mammoth monthly handles in more than a dozen U.S. states, sportsbooks operate on razor-thin margins, unlike iGaming offerings. When New York legalized mobile sports betting in April, several lobbying groups questioned out loud why an online casino provision was not bundled into a budget bill that set the groundwork for the launch of online sports wagering. The topic gained traction at this week’s East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City.
WV elected official Shawn Fluharty uses a golf analogy to explain to East Coast Gaming Congress crowd in AC how some states are too focused on sports betting vs more lucrative cousin. Said lawmakers should “pass sports betting for show, pass iGaming for dough” #ecgc #SportsBiz
— John Brennan (@BergenBrennan) October 26, 2021
Meanwhile, Toronto-based Rivalry Corp. announced Thursday that the company has applied for a license to become a fully regulated iGaming and sports betting operator in Ontario. A publicly listed online eSports and sports betting company, Rivalry appears to be the first commercial operator to disclose that it has applied for an Ontario sports betting license.
If both it and Rush Street are granted licenses from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, they will become competitors in what is shaping up to be a crowded field.
“We look forward to providing a truly differentiated gaming experience for players in Ontario that is focused on fostering player trust and enjoyment,” said Schwartz, Rush Street’s CEO.