At the Canadian Gaming Summit last June, William Woodhams, CEO of Fitzdares, said this about the relatively new, regulated Ontario sports betting market: “The existential problem we have in Ontario is sport, there aren’t enough sports to bet on (pointing to short season for the main sports, with low margins).
“A European punter will be betting on 36 races during the day in the UK, or in Ireland, France, all that racing product, with all the soccer happening all the time, tennis being a top-five sport, in-play there is insane, but it’s not happening here yet because it’s a newly regulated market. The opportunity here is to lessen the reliance on casino and get day-to-day sport up, because that will help the margin of the business as a whole.”
Some people in the industry in Ontario disagreed with that when we spoke with them, saying Woodhams was misinformed about the market for Ontario sportsbook apps. There are plenty of sports to bet on, they said.
“We love all sports from all over the world (in Ontario),” says Nic Sulsky, chief commercial officer of PointsBet Canada. “And we have people betting on sports at all hours on the day – pregame markets, in-play markets. It's really not because there are not enough sports to bet on or because we're newly regulated. We have an immense amount of soccer and we have a huge soccer-loving crowd in Ontario. There's a crazy amount of tennis betting in play and pre-match that we support and there's markets from events all over the world.”
Shedding Light On Canada Market
Market performance numbers released every quarter by iGaming Ontario shed light on how the sports betting market is actually performing, separated out from Ontario online casinos – and how Ontario compares to some of the biggest American sports wagering markets.
A look at Q1 and Q2 Ontario numbers (April 1 through Sept. 30 combined) shows that the sports betting (and esports and novelty bets) segment on the market did $3.9 billion CAD in total wagers/handle ($2.83 billion USD) and $256 million CAD ($186 million USD) in revenue. That, of course, doesn’t give one a full picture of the Ontario market – Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation numbers, for their Proline sports betting platform, are not included in iGaming Ontario numbers.
OLG just released its 2022-23 annual report (FY April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023), so we don’t have their market performance numbers for April 1 to Sept. 30, 2023. And OLG gives a consolidated digital gaming number in their reports – they don’t break out sports betting versus casino, for example.
Ontario Vs. Top U.S. States
That’s all in a province with a population of 15.26 million people, and a market that has 47 operators and 71 gaming websites, as per iGO’s Q2 report. Where does that rank Ontario in terms of sports betting, compared to similar-size U.S. markets, over the same time period (April to September 2023)?
- New York (population 19.5 million): $7.9375 billion USD handle, $2.021 billion USD revenue
- New Jersey (population 9.3 million): $4.816 billion USD handle, $489 million USD revenue
- Nevada (population 3.2 million): $3.2555 billion USD handle, $207.8 million USD revenue
- Pennsylvania (population 12.9 million): $2.899 billion USD handle, $191.9 million USD revenue
- Ohio (population 11.7 million): $2.7354 billion USD handle, $313.9 million USD revenue
- Michigan (population 10 million): $1.7925 billion USD handle, $109.7 million USD revenue
Ontario casino apps still dominate the scene in the province. More specifically, in Q2, casino games slots, live and computer-based tables games and peer-to-peer bingo) accounted for almost $11.9 billion CAD (84%) of total wagers and 75 ($407 million CAD) of gaming revenue.
Sulsky says it’s still too early to judge.
“Speaking to actual Ontario fans out there, casino is absolutely popular, but it had been immensely popular via the long standing gray market,” he said. “A casino also appeals differently to iGaming users because there's instant gratification.
“And let's face it, casino also indexes a little bit more prominently toward women. Women haven't picked up sports betting as much as men in the early days of the market but that's growing and that's changing. But the fact that casino is more prominent than sports betting has nothing to do with the amount of sports that are available especially with technologies like PointsBet that literally offer hundreds of different markets live in play all day long across every imaginable sport across the world.
“There definitely needs to be some level of Canadian representation within your organization in order to fully maximize the opportunity here in my opinion,” he adds.
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