Ontario Sports Betting Lounges & Live-Event Betting could be Struggling Argos’ Lifeline

Ontario Sports Betting Lounges & Live-Event Betting could be Struggling Argos’ Lifeline
By Mark Keast

The other day was an eye-opener, of sorts, watching the Washington Football Team take on the Raiders at Allegiant Field in Las Vegas. The Raiders would lose that game 17-15, but it wasn’t about the end result.

Allegiant Field just opened to the public this year, and is the NFL’s latest opulent mecca. Quite the opposite of The Black Hole, a part of the stadium in Oakland where the team’s previous incarnation used to play, renowned for its ferocity, fans dressed in Raider black.

The Wynn Field Club in the new stadium is a nightclub/bar built at field level, in the north end zone. It has a 45,000 watt sound system and two DJs, and has plenty of screens and tickers. It’s a unique sports betting lounge in the gambling capital of the country.

When talking live betting, how much more live does it get than a Daniel Carlson field goal landing right in the middle of your seating area?

Across the NFL landscape, many more sports betting lounges have popped up in states where sports betting is legal — the FOXBet Lounge in Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, the WynnBET Sports Bar at Detroit’s Ford Field and the WynnBET Club at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

It makes you wonder how places like the Rogers Centre will look once there is a regulated, open Ontario sports betting industry, with teams always looking at additional revenue streams.

It looks like the launch of the sports betting market in Ontario with private operators will be delayed until after the 2022 Super Bowl, which is set for Feb. 13.

Ontario online casinos will also be on hold until at least mid-February.

There’s a lot of talk in these parts about how the Rogers and the Blue Jays will soon be retro-fitting the decrepit Rogers Centre for baseball games.

Argos Need to Take Advantage of Sports Betting

And what a way for MLSE, owners of the Argos, to make going to an CFL game an experience, compared to what it is now — basically the organization opens the stadium doors and hope people walk in, with paltry attendance figures of 6,000-7,000 for some games. Living next door, you wouldn’t even know there’s a game going on.

The Argos have to find creative ways to get people, especially young people, to games. A sport betting lounge or live-betting experience would be a great way to help accomplish that. The team isn’t generating any interest in the market. Maybe legal, live wagering on Ontario sports betting apps can be a marketing Trojan Horse for the organization, then out comes the football team.

Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, sees it happening, post regulation.

“A lot of that comes down to the fact people can bet on their mobile devices, anywhere they sit,” he said. “That’s the reality. Most of the bets on sportsbooks are being made on mobile devices (in the U.S.). These will be marketing activation centres, for fans in the stadiums. You can sit on your phone and play. We will see all that.

“What the teams are looking for are those marketing relationships. The CFL has a deal with BetRegal, for example. Betting kiosks in stadiums? That doesn’t need to be done. The reality is you will see all the same attributes that you see in stadiums like Las Vegas and other places. You’ll see activations, marketing partnerships, branding promotions.

“I know leagues and teams are actively looking at how they can participate in those, across the country. How can people use our intellectual property for betting? That’s what they are asking.”

CFL an Active Participant

Burns referenced how active the CFL was in making legal sports betting a reality in Canada, with Commissioner Randy Ambrosie speaking in the House of Commons and Senate.

“They see this as a great opportunity for them,” he said. “They have a great product on the field. In some markets, tax payers have supported teams over the years, to keep those teams in parts of Canada. What a tremendous opportunity for them to earn some revenue on their own, and enhance their profile, and their sustainability.”

Professor David Soberman, Canadian National Chair in Strategic Marketing at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, points to the empty seats for Jays games in a stadium the size of Rogers Centre.

Anything Rogers can do to get more people to attend is a win.

“Obviously the opportunity is amplified if you own both the stadium and the team,” he said. “And remember in contrast to the Scotiabank Centre there are always a lot of empty seats for baseball.”

Just Part of the Strategy for Argos

The Argos are in a different boat entirely.

“When a team is struggling with attendance like the Argos, many different strategies have to be implemented simultaneously to turn things around,” Soberman added. “Obviously a lot of people bet on the NFL regular season. In the CFL it only seems that people become interested in betting once the playoffs start. Hence, this is a big opportunity for the CFL.

“Also once the pandemic is over, there is the added benefit of being able to attend games while gambling. While less of an issue in Toronto, which has all the major sports except NFL, think of a place like Regina. The Roughriders are the only game in town so this has the potential to really add interest into the CFL.

“People who are interested in attending sporting events may have added incentive to gamble and people who gamble will have added incentive to attend.”

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Mark Keast

Mark Keast has recently covered the sports betting industry in Canada for The Parleh, and is a long-time sportswriter and editor, most notably with the Toronto Sun.