It’s been a busy opening month for Ontario’s fledgling sports-betting market

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TORONTO — It’s been a competitive start for Ontario’s fledgling sports-betting market but Greg Warren is anticipating that to ramp up shortly.

The industry opened up fully in Ontario on April 4 and as of Tuesday there were 13 operators and 21 sites live in the province. But Warren, who covers sports betting in this country for Sportshandle.com and USBets.com, says more competition is likely on its way.

“Everybody is waiting for DraftKings to come to Ontario,” Warren said during an interview. “They’re not licensed with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario yet … but everyone is kind of expecting them to jump into the market soon. And I think when they come, they’re going to be very popular.”

Ditto, Warren says, for BetWay, an online gambling company that holds licenses in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy, German and six American states, to name a few.

“There was data from Morgan Stanley that suggested they had a large share of the (Ontario) market in the last year because they were operating as a grey operator,” Warren said. “They should be here in the next month and they’re expected to really do well also.”

Another operator expected to launch soon in Ontario is Bet99, which signed Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews as an ambassador in February. Matthews, who has scored a club-record 60 goals this season, will lead the Leafs into the NHL playoffs.

The start of the NHL post-season could also be a boon for both PointsBet and FanDuel, two licensed Ontario operators that both have partnerships with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns both the Leafs and NBA’s Toronto Raptors. After dropping the first three games of their opening-round playoff series against Philadelphia, the Raptors have won two straight heading into Thursday night’s home game at Scotiabank Arena.

“The further the Raptors can go in the playoffs, the better for them (PointsBet and FanDuel),” Warren said. “And all eyes will be on the Leafs this year, that’s for sure.”

Earlier this month, BetRivers said the NBA was the most popular sport for Ontario bettors, receiving 35 per cent of all handle through the first week of the launch. The Masters was second (17 per cent) followed by major league baseball (14 per cent).

And the Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays were the most popular teams in their respective sports to wager on.

Last month, PointsBet, secured a partnership with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. The league is scheduled to kick off its 2022 season in June.

The CFL announced a multi-year partnership with BetRegal in 2021 that made it the league’s official online sports gaming partner.

Last week, two separate reports suggested the Ontario launch was a good one for theScore Bet, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming, Inc., headquartered in Toronto.

Barclays Equity Research stated in its report that theScore Bet and bet365 finished tied for the most sports app downloads in Ontario over the first 10 days of the provincial launch. And Morgan Stanley had theScore solidly ahead in app downloads according to data through April 18.

Barclays stated theScore Bet and bet365 both had 24 per cent of downloads over the first 10 days of the launch. FanDuel was third at 20 per cent while BetMGM was fourth at 11 per cent.

Morgan Stanley listed theScoreBet with a 35 per cent share, followed by bet365 (27 per cent), FanDuel (16 per cent), BetMGM (nine per cent), BetWay (four per cent), PointsBet and BetRivers (three, two per cent) and CZR, 888 and LeoVegas (one per cent each). The report said theScore Bet’s download share peaked at 65 per cent April 4 but had recently settled in at 18 per cent.

Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley suggested theScore Bet’s share had declined to 12 per cent while bet365 had increased to 38 per cent and BetMGM was at 21 per cent.

What remains unclear, though, is how the market is doing in terms of revenues as IGaming Ontario has yet to divulge those figures. IGaming Ontario is a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which regulates gaming in the province.

However, Warren said not all operators are happy with the province, which has allowed some companies to continue doing business despite not being fully licensed to do so.

“Some operators waited until April 4 to submit for a license and this process can take anywhere from 90 to 100 days on average, according to some operators I’ve spoken to,” Warren said. “And it seems some operators are being allowed to operate while they’re in this process and not pay the GGR (gross gaming revenue) until they’re fully regulated. And that’s created frustration among the operators in the space now who’ve kind of played by the rules the whole way. If you look at it from the other side of the coin, when I was talking to some of these previously grey operators, they say, ‘Look, we’re complying, we’re transitioning, we’ve committed to it. Is it really that big a deal?’ But you can also see why other operators who didn’t have a stake previously in Ontario but have followed the protocol and how that’s frustrating for them, for sure.”

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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