Canada's new market debut

Ontario kickstarts online betting operations with FanDuel, BetMGM, 888, BetRivers, PointsBet, others

2022-04-04
Canada
Reading time 7:08 min

As the Canadian province of Ontario launches its iGaming and online sports betting market today, some of the largest gambling operators have expressed high hopes for the jurisdiction, which is the largest in the country and the first to take bets in a legal private online gambling market. 

As of Monday, April 4, 2022, Ontarians are able to wager on casino games, sporting events and other gambling activities through online websites and smartphone apps from several operators registered to run activities in the province. 

The number of registered operators as of April 1 was 25, with more to come, according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which regulates the industry. Even though not all sites will launch right away, those that plan to take bets have been ramping up advertising to reach potential users ahead of the launch. 

The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) joined Dani Lipkin, Director, Global Business Development, Toronto Stock Exchange, to celebrate the launch of the Province of Ontario's new regulated marketplace for iGaming and open the market.

FanDuel Group launched a fully integrated real money online gaming experience in Ontario right on schedule with the FanDuel Sportsbook app and the FanDuel Casino app now available. The company announced on the week prior to the market opening that it would become part of the new Ontario online market scenario, and also announced its partnerships in the jurisdiction. 

BetMGM is debuting in the province marking its 23rd operational jurisdiction. Its CEO Adam Greenblatt commented on the new North American iGaming market and said: "Today marks a significant milestone for BetMGM and a momentous occasion for sports fans and online players in Ontario. We're confident that customers in Canada will enjoy the unique, interactive and world-class experience that only BetMGM can provide."

BetMGM has also established partnerships with Canadian athletes to help reach players across the country. Hockey Hall of Fame member Wayne Gretzky and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid will appear in BetMGM's upcoming marketing campaigns, in addition to the brand's advertisements featuring Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx and Basketball Hall of Fame member Kevin Garnett.

On Monday, 888 Holdings also launched its 888casino, 888poker and 888sport brands in Ontario. Shai Tabibian, SVP and Head of B2C at 888, said: "We are very excited to launch our world-class casino, poker and sport brands in Ontario as the market opens, bringing our full betting and gaming experiences and offers to players across the province. Fans of sports, poker and casino will enjoy our diverse range of content and features, all enabled by our leading proprietary technology, and we look forward to rolling out new games and features for players to try over the coming months."

Furthermore, sports betting site PointsBet Canada has launched its marketing campaign ahead of the market opening at midnight on Monday. Curling Canada and other teams are partners with PointsBet and the company is working with the Trailer Park Boys on a series of online videos and ads. The Canuck comedy group is also set to host an in-person VIP launch party for the site in Toronto. 

As reported by the Canadian Press, spokesman with PointsBet, Patrick Eichner said the launch in Ontario is significant for the company, which has already come online in several U.S. states with legalized online gambling. “Ontario is going to serve as sort of both the foundation and the mecca of Canadian sports betting, so you have to deliver on that first impression and have to be strong out the gates”. 

Richard Schwartz, CEO of Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers, stated that the company has hired 50 people in Toronto for its Ontario operations. The launch is important for the company as well as it is the largest jurisdiction in North America to legalize online casinos. BetRivers has run ads on Canadian TV during the Winter Olympics with former TSN anchor Dan O’Toole, as the company had never operated in the country pre-regulation and needed the local customer base to get familiarized with the brand.

Canadian brand, theScore Bet, has also been advertising online as well, featuring actors from television shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. The company was also planning a weekend of launch parties from Saturday through Monday night for fans in Toronto. 

Kindred Group's Unibet also launched its sportsbook and online casino products in Ontario on Monday. “It has been a great effort from the Kindred teams and our partners to get the Unibet brand live in Ontario on Day 1,” said Amanda Brewer, Country Manager Canada. “This highlights our ambition in this significant market, where we intend to continue to build on our international success.”

“I am proud of the hard work everyone put in to ensure we launched on time. With such a wide range of sports and a province that is full of sports fans our customers can expect fresh, appealing promotions from Unibet on a regular basis. We’re in this for the long term, and we look forward to building our presence in Ontario over the coming months as we welcome new customers to the Unibet family!” added Brewer.

Rivalry Corp. on Monday announced that its online esports and traditional sports betting service is now live in Ontario as well. The company is launching a marketing campaign starting Monday, built around the theme: “Bet on Canada. Bet on Rivalry.”

Local residents will be exposed to the Rivalry brand through a holistic campaign featuring uniquely captivating visuals that play out in a brand video delivered through social media channels, a full wrap (inside and out) enveloping one of Toronto's most iconic symbols, a TTC streetcar, along with more grassroots wild postings that will be featured prominently in the city’s downtown core.

“We do things differently at Rivalry. We are aiming to be the sportsbook for the next generation through engaging content and innovative experiences that entertain and create loyal fans of Rivalry who come back for more,” said Steven Salz, Co-Founder and CEO of Rivalry. “To launch in our home market feels like a dream come true, and a very significant milestone in our creation of a leading global brand.”

Sports betting data provider Genius Sports also received regulatory approval from the AGCO on the day of Ontario’s market launch, with permission to launch operations right away under its Gaming-Related Supplier license. 

The company’s CEO and Co-Founder, Mark Locke, commented on this milestone and said: “I am delighted that Genius Sports has become one of the first sportsbook providers to win approval from the AGCO. This approval underscores Genius Sports’ exemplary track record in compliance, and we are excited to be in a position to deliver our market-leading sportsbook data and technology to our customers in Ontario from day one.”

Also on April 4, ESE Entertainment announced that it has started a new division of its business focused on expanding its existing products and services to iGaming companies. ESE has focused on providing a range of services to video game developers, publishers and brands by providing technology, infrastructure and fan engagement services internationally; while also operating its own ecommerce channels, esports teams and gaming leagues. By introducing its iGaming division, the company intends to service registered iGaming companies by leveraging its expertise in the video game and esports markets. 

ESE CEO, Konrad Wasiela, stated: The announcement that Canada will launch a new iGaming market in Ontario is groundbreaking. This opens an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Our company has the infrastructure and solutions to provide tier-one services to iGaming companies around the world. We believe this is an excellent opportunity for ESE to expand its offering into iGaming and leverage our complementary expertise in esports and gaming.”

Online gambling already existed in Ontario, mostly in the form of gray market websites operated outside Canada, and also through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., which launched its Proline+ sportsbook last summer after the federal government legalized single-event sports betting. 

With the regulation of online gambling, the province aimed to protect consumers and provide choice. There have been some concerns, however, from land-based casino operators and unions who fear the new market might impact revenues and jobs at their venues if they are taxed at a higher rate and lose customers. 

According to an HLT Advisory for Great Canadian Gaming report, the largest casino operator in the province, there is a projected possibility of thousands of lost jobs and $2.8 billion in lost revenue at land-based casinos in the five years after the online market opens. 

However, Ontario's Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy's spokeswoman Emily Hogeveen said in a statement that iGaming framework “will complement land-based gaming activity, not detract from it, by providing new opportunities for land-based gaming operators to diversify their offerings and cross-promote between online and land-based sites”, The Canadian Press reported. 

Responsible gambling is also at the forefront of priorities for the province. AGCO has set harm-reduction standards for operators, including the requirement that sites have a mechanism to monitor players for “experiencing harm”. Operators must display responsible gaming messages, access to 24-hour help resources and self-exclusion options.

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