No shortage of operators looking to get into full Ontario sports betting market

TORONTO — Greg Warren is seeing no shortage of interest in the Ontario sports-betting market.

Single-game sports betting has been legal in Canada since last summer but the industry won’t open up fully in Ontario until April 4. Warren, who covers sports betting in this country for Sportshandle.com and USBets.com, said Monday there’s already 14 operators that have licenses to launch when the market opens in the province.

“And that list could grow up to 30,” Warren said. “Not all of them are going to be sports betting ? but I would imagine at least two-thirds of those will be offering sports betting.

“It’s going to be a very big deal.”

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In fact, a report by Deloitte Canada estimated the legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada could grow to close to $28 billion within five years.

By comparison, there were only four operators fully licensed _ Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel and BetRivers.com, which is owned and operated by Rush Street Interactive _ when single-game sports betting became legal Jan. 8 in New York. That number has since increased to nine.

Mobile sports betting has been big, big business in New York.

State sportsbooks collected US$1.5 billion in wagers through the first 27 days of February, according to data released by the New York State Gaming Commission. That came after the state’s $1.7 billion debut in January.

Ontario’s population is around 15 million people, which would make it the fifth-largest American state. The province is expected to generate about $800 million in gross revenue this year.

Pennsylvania, which has a 34 per cent tax rate on sports betting, accumulated just over US$500 million in legal gaming revenue in 2021.

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Warren said interest in the Ontario sports-betting market is worldwide.

“Four groups that launched in New York in January (Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM) are expected to major players (in Ontario),” Warren said. “There are some uniquely Canadian brands that will be launching like theScore Bet and NorthStar Gaming.

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“You also have some international (operators) like Bet365 (British online company) and Unibet (which provides sports betting, casino, bingo and online poker to over 11 million customers in over 100 countries). You’ll have a huge array of sportsbooks from Europe, the U.S. and some that were born in Canada.”

When the Ontario market opens fully, there will be no shortage of sports for fans to wager on. The NCAA men’s basketball final is slated for April 4 with The Masters starting April 7.

Opening day for the Toronto Blue Jays is April 8 when they host the Texas Rangers. And then there’s the NHL and NBA playoffs involving both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

And there will be a fully array of other European and world sports events for interested parties to wager on.

But the April 4 launch meant the Ontario market missed both the Super Bowl and most of March Madness (NCAA men’s basketball tournament). The American Gaming Association estimated over 17 per cent of adults in the U.S. _ roughly 45 million people _ planned to bet US$3.1 billion on the hoops tournament alone.

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“The plan was to launch last December so that everyone would be up and running and have those marquee events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics and NCAA tournament,” Warren said. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen and there were operators who were upset about that, definitely.

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“But the (Ontario) regulators are really focusing on trying to get this right. They’ve done a lot of studies with different places in Europe that have had successful gaming models.”

Warren said Ontario regulators have also been very diligent in ensuring a safe and ethical sports-betting landscape.

“Many operators have been impressed with how thorough the government has been in researching all of this,” Warren said. “They feel they’re really taking this seriously, they’ve really done their homework on it.”

On March 8, the Canadian Gaming Association _ a national trade organization _ announced it had signed an agreement with the International Betting Integrity Association for Ontario and the wider Canadian market. It will provide a co-operation and co-ordination framework on betting and related integrity issues while also protecting the market, sports, consumers, and regulated betting operators, from corrupt activities.

“As far as responsible gaming goes, many operators are taking this very, very seriously,” Warren said. “There’s a lot of safeguards that are being put in place.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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