So if you work for the CFL, or you are a fan of the league, how do you take these two nuggets of news? First, TV ratings for Sunday’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Hamilton Tiger Cats matchup were down 22% compared to 2019. But secondly, though, betting on the game was at a historic level.
The game, which Winnipeg won 33-25, drew 2,873,000 viewers. There was an average audience of 821,000 in that all-important 25-54 age bracket watched. An average of 1,502,000 watched in the 55-plus age bracket.
It doesn’t bode well for the league's future if the bulk of the audience is at the seniors level. (Although TN PR did report “major engagement” on their social media platforms for the game.)
But here’s some more news to counter that negativity. The only legal Ontario sportsbook option is the OLG’s PROLINE+, and its postgame betting stats showed the game in a different kind of light.
This year’s Grey Cup saw the most betting action in the history of OLG’s PROLINE brand (retail and PROLINE+ digital).
This should be good news for when the entire online sports betting market opens in Ontario. For now, it looks like the launch of private operators will be delayed until after the 2022 Super Bowl, which is set for Feb. 13.
Though Canada will miss the biggest betting event of the year, the Super Bowl, bettors will have plenty of time left to wager on the NHL, NBA and college basketball seasons, including March Madness.
Ontario online casinos will likely be delayed until at least mid-February.
Breaking Down the Betting Numbers
In terms of moneyline, tickets were split almost down the middle (49%/51%), while there was slightly more money on Winnipeg (55%/45%).
In terms of spread, Winnipeg was the preferred choice, ranging from -1.5 to -3.5. Total tickets skewed 68% to 32% while the handle was 72% to 28%. Players preferred the Over - tickets and money both broke 66% to 34%.
Single bets were 82%, parlays 18%. Pre-game bets were 68% of the action, while live betting was 32%.
And in terms of interesting betting, one bettor turned $800 into over $10,000 with a 12-team parlay that included the Bombers winning (the other 11 legs were mostly huge NFL moneyline favorites). Another bettor turned $5 into over $3,800 with some riskier plays on a 10-team spread parlay that also included Winnipeg covering the spread.
CFL Adds Deal with Genius Sports
All this came at a time when the CFL announced a deal with Genius Sports. They’ll have exclusive rights to work in its range of sports technology solutions to commercialize the CFL’s official data worldwide and video content with sportsbooks in international markets. Genius brings in personalized fan engagement solutions, data tracking tools, cross-platform streaming capabilities and much more. It’s an opportunity for the CFL to really grow its international audience, especially into the U.S.
The CFL has tied its cart to sports betting — not a surprise since league commissioner Randy Ambrosie was front and centre making presentations to the House of Commons and the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce earlier this year when Bill C-218, legalizing sports betting in Canada, was getting federal government approval. Sports betting will be a lifeline for the cash-strapped league.
So in a way, despite the negative TV ratings, those betting numbers are pretty important as well.