Rivalry Co-Founder & CEO Steven Salz Talks Ontario Sports Betting, Future

Rivalry Co-Founder & CEO Steven Salz Talks Ontario Sports Betting, Future
By Mark Keast

It has been a good few weeks for Toronto-based Rivalry Corp., the internationally regulated sports betting and media company. And that’s even before Ontario sports betting has begun.

The company saw record results in its businesses across multiple key performance indicators in October — led by a betting handle of $12.8 million, the highest monthly figure ever recorded by the company. That exceeded the previous monthly high by more than 40%. The year-over-year increase compared to October 2020 was more than 350%.

The company has gone public, and introduced Rushlane, a socially focused, online casino. The company also confirmed it has applied to become a fully registered operator of sports betting and Ontario online casinos.

We spoke with Rivalry co-founder and CEO Steven Salz.

'Very Competitive for Sports Bettor Dollars'

How big or competitive a market in Ontario are you anticipating post-regulation? Ontario will one of the largest markets in the world, once up and regulated, one operator told us. Do you agree?

Steven Salz: We agree. There is a statistic that said if Ontario were in the U.S. it would be a top 5 market there, which is significant. We think it will be highly competitive. Ontario has already been a long-standing and highly competitive gray market. We anticipate over time that many of the gray market operators will flip to Ontario regulated registrations (license equivalent).

But what you will have is all the existing gray market operators plus the many operators that will be seeking an Ontario registration, such as ourselves and theScore Ontario, for example, that will also begin to operate. All to say, it's going to be very busy and very competitive for sports bettor dollars here.

Playbook for Ontario Sports Betting Success

With that level of competition, what are going to be some of the keys that will push Rivalry to the top of the pile?

Steven Salz: We are going to deploy the same playbook that has led to success in other markets for us, but probably with even more finesse as this is our own backyard, so we are confident in our positioning.

In other markets Rivalry is active globally, there are many entrenched and massive sports betting operators. This is going to be normal course for us. If anything, we prefer when the market is highly competitive because the vast majority of sportsbooks all target the same core betting cohort of mid-30+ year old sports bettors, whereas Rivalry has found success in the next generation, which is 18 to 30.

In our existing markets our competitors are going toe to toe every day, spending what we believe is an unsustainable amount of marketing dollars to try and grab existing users from one another. We run very heavy social media, content, and influencer marketing and find in many cases we hardly run into any competitors. They are not active in our channels, or pop in and don't understand how to interact with the demographic as a brand and work with these kinds of partners. We also mint new sports bettors in many cases versus having to poach existing ones off of competitor sportsbooks.

As mentioned above, our target demo is one generation below the average sportsbook. They are just coming into the fold of consumer experiences like sports betting, not unlike investing on Wealthsimple or Robinhood, or just getting into cryptocurrencies. This is the internet generation. We believe nobody understands internet culture and wrapping entertainment experiences around that in sports betting better than Rivalry. Our goal, as in other markets, is to prove that we are the go-to place for that generation to sports bet.

Our goal is to be the defining destination for the next generation of sports bettors, and believe we will find that success among that demographic in Ontario.

What are you hearing about a go-live date for Ontario?

The dates have been moving around and nothing firm has been released yet. We are hoping sometime around the Super Bowl, and are looking for that to be finalized as soon as possible.

Rivalry Offers Social Online Casino Rushlane

What distinguishes Rushlane from everyone else?

Steven Salz: Rushlane is a social betting experience that puts entertainment first. It is not rapidly transactional like a slot machine that you play in isolation. Rushlane was built as the first in a collection of massively multiplayer online gambling games (MMOGG) on Rivalry that will integrate user gamer profiles with community activations and a deep game lore.

The demographic that utilizes Rivalry grew up interfaced with the internet and online communities that feel as close as your next door neighbor. We are replicating that social experience so Rivalry increasingly feels like a casual place to hang out with friends and be entertained. We want to get away from the highly transactional and isolating experience of most online casino.

Are you operating in legal jurisdictions in the U.S.?

Steven Salz: We hold no U.S. state licenses, and therefore do not currently operate there. Rivalry has a license in the Isle of Man, and a conditional one in Australia with full licensing expected this quarter.



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.

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