Operators Vying for Ontario Market Share Ahead of Regulation

Operators Vying for Ontario Market Share Ahead of Regulation
By Mark Keast

There are still a lot of unknowns and unanswered questions in the soon-to-be unleashed regulated Ontario sports betting industry, but that isn’t stopping private operators applying for licenses to get an early jump on gaining market share in the province.

Aly Lalani, head of marketing for Betregal, said private operators will be diving even deeper, building more and more sponsorships at the local sports levels. The cross-promotion deal announced in late July between theScore Ontario Sportsbook and Canlan Sports, with its six Ontario sports complexes, is a great example, he said.

Part of that deal is on-site branding opportunities for theScore’s properties, including its Ontario mobile sportsbook app “theScore Bet” in all the hockey rinks. The company gets tournament title sponsorship for Canlan’s adult rec league (ASHL) tournaments. More than 65,000 players play in that league annually. Anyone who plays in a beer league every week will understand the value of that, since the social aspect is three-quarters of the fun.

“There are going to be some real monsters in the market next year,” Lalani said. “Bet365, DraftKings – it’s going to be fundamentally important for us over the next few months to establish ourselves as a brand. It’s not like the DraftKings customer is buying a car and won’t buy a car for another 10 years.

”That’s a warm customer for me now. If I can show him more value, a better proposition, a differentiator, that’s a customer I can still get. But it still makes this time, right now, pre-regulation, really, really important. I thought that the Canlan deal was genius.”

Lalani said BetRegal is trying to establish itself as a brand right now, and not necessarily as a product.

“We want to be loud and proud about our Canadiana. And we want to help with that educational process (for bettors), helping the customers understand what this is all about.”

BetRegal Partners with PGA of Canada

BetRegal’s deal with the PGA of Canada, the member-based, non-profit association representing club professionals — announced in August — is another example. It’s a three-year agreement that sees the Canadian company become the Official Sports Betting Partner of the association. The annual golf championship is now called the BetRegal PGA Championship of Canada presented by TaylorMade Golf and adidas Golf.

“That gives us access to 3,700 golf pros across the country,” Lalani said. “Everybody plays golf now. So that’s a way we can access golf club membership in a really grassroots way. Four buddies going to the golf course and hanging out and playing, having a beer or dinner afterward. And they are talking about football somewhere in that four-hour experience. That’s the market we want.”

Lalani said they chose the PGA of Canada route precisely because of the grassroots element. The golf pros will become affiliates for the brand as the relationship builds, “driving organic acquisition,” particularly after BetRegal Casino Ontario is licensed.

Operators Being Aggressive

There are a finite number of sports leagues and teams-type sponsorships in Canada, Lalani added, so that’s why companies are getting aggressive, pre-regulation, even getting into sports bars.

BetRegal is already the official sports gaming partner of the CFL.

“That’s the crown jewel of our sponsorship portfolio,” Lalani said.

“It’s all about customer acquisition for those in the online space – casino or sports,” said Paul Burns, President & CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. “Making connections and partnerships with those who have a database of potential customers. So Canlan has lots of adults who like hockey and likely bet on sports so it makes sense to make those partnership.

”PointsBet recently announced a partnership with Curling Canada as another example of reach into a sporting community. I expect these types of arrangements will continue to happen and not just limited to sports.”

What Could Toronto Do?

Could the city of Toronto consider regulated sportsbook sponsorships in city-run facilities, like hockey rinks? A spokesperson said the city is currently reviewing how the province’s regulatory change for sportsbook operators will apply to city operations and facilities.

“It is premature to assume at this time that the city reviewing provincial regulations in this area may lead to marketing and/or sponsorship partnerships with regulated sport betting operators,” Toronto spokesperson Shane Gerard said.

It is early, maybe even premature. But then again it isn’t.

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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.