On April 4, the Ontario sports betting industry will transform. Private sportsbooks will be allowed to get sports betting licenses and operate in Ontario. However, Ontario isn’t another American state market for major US operators like DraftKings or FanDuel.
Ontario sports bettors are unique from their American counterparts in two important ways. First, Ontario bettors have different sports preferences than Americans do. Second, Ontario bettors are expected to be more experienced than many Americans.
Ontario Sports Betting Preferences
Certain sports are more popular in Ontario — and much of Canada — than in the United States.
“NFL is obviously still huge, but hockey plays a much greater role north of the border than it does south of the border,” Aubrey Levy, VP of Content and Marketing at theScore said.
Some sports enjoy popularity in Canada that they likely won’t in the United States at all. Within these sports, bettors in different provinces are drawn to certain teams.
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“Rugby is a big sport now in British Columbia and rugby is starting to grow in Ontario as well because there’s an MLR [Major League Rugby] team called the Toronto Arrows,” Sulsky said. “There’s really subtle difference to what Canadians sports fans engage with across the country. It’s not just a big paintbrush with a maple leaf.”
Ontario bettors won’t behave identically to other Canadians, because fan bases are spread across the country. In the same way that Colorado residents drool over important developments with the Denver Broncos, Ontario residents will be invested in their local teams. But Ontario bettors will be watching sports like rugby and curling, not just football and basketball like the Americans.
What To Expect With Ontario Sports Betting Market Maturity
“I think there’s also interesting dynamics from a maturity of market perspective,” Levy said. “Because of how long Ontario’s been a gray market for, you have a lot of people who’ve been betting in the province for a long period of time.”
In Canada, offshore sportsbooks have been part of a gray market. The Canadian government and its provinces haven’t explicitly outlawed offshore sportsbook operations.
In contrast, operating offshore sportsbooks and accepting American bets has always been, and remains, illegal in the United States. That doesn’t mean that American bettors never used offshore sportsbooks. But it did mean that offshore sportsbook brands couldn’t partner with and market through American teams.
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But the relationship that Canada and some of its professional teams have had with major offshore sportsbook brands has allowed those offshore books to build large customer bases of Canadian bettors. So, when private sportsbooks launch in Ontario, Ontario bettors will know the types of bets and promotions they’d like to see.
“In Canada, sports betting is already mature,” Sulsky said. “People up here already understand the ins and outs of what sports betting is all about. There’s going to be less of a need to educate the sports fan around sports betting.”
Since so many of them have been betting offshore, Ontario sports betting handle will likely start high instead of slowly building like newer and smaller markets have in the United States. So, it’ll be a unique market for sportsbooks of all types and sizes to launch in.