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Ontario: A Year on

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Cole Rush examines the performance of the Ontario Sports Betting Market in its inaugural year and the future prospects for the industry.

How long has it been since last year? !

Ontario’s sports betting began in earnest a year ago and has since become a part of the conversation about North American sport betting. Ontario, which shares similarities with the US but has its own unique characteristics as well, is shaping Canada’s sports betting landscape. It’s just beginning.

Ontario is now home to more than two dozen operators, as well as a variety of suppliers offering B2B service. Ontario was often referred to as the “fifth largest state” when it launched. But now, the sports betting industry in Ontario is gaining more and more recognition.

Ontario’s performance review for the past year

You need not worry. No awkward, corporate-jargon-laced meeting with your boss here. This is a very high-level overview of Ontario’s first full year of sports betting.

Mkodo’s GeoLocs was the first geolocation service that offered cross-platform functionality in Ontario. Stuart Godfree, the managing director of Mkodo’s Ontario division, is optimistic about this province.

He says that Ontario has been an exciting market both for GeoLocs as well as for the entire industry. With a gaming revenue total of $1.4bn for the first year, it is one of the biggest online gambling markets of North America. There are currently over 40 online gambling operators in Ontario. Most of them offer mobile betting apps, which shows how successful the market is.

Stuart Godfree, managing director, Mkodo

Even after many years of grey market gambling, the province has successfully transitioned to fully-regulated betting. Anyone who meets the requirements and qualifies to get a license can obtain one. This is a new approach to betting on sports, which was unheard of in North America before Ontario.

Nic Sulsky is the chief commercial officer at PointsBet Canada. He says that “the AGCO and IGO did a great job in shepherding this framework’s growth.” Ontario is the largest province in Canada. It’s proportional. “But the upside is huge.”

The provinces should realize, that at the moment, bettors from the Canadian provinces that are not regulated can gamble with the majority of products used by the Ontario gamblers. The Ontario gambling industry is supported by responsible gaming programs, and consumers are protected.

The provincial government will receive 20% of the tax. “I don’t believe it is possible to be more evident right now about the success of this launch.”

Sulsky makes an important point regarding other Canadian provinces. We’ll discuss that further.

Mobinc is one of the first companies to be approved to run in Ontario by 2023.

Sergei Belikov, CEO of the company said: “We’re excited to bring more gaming and sports betting brands to Ontario players.

Ontario’s initial wave of suppliers and operators was not the final goal. Belikov Mobinc has seen positive results months after the original launch.

He says that “we are still in our first quarter of business in Ontario.” “Yet, our performance so far is promising. We are likely to surpass our expectations, which shows the appetite bettors for new content have.”

What is unique about Canada?

Sulsky says that the gray market in this region has been around for a long time. There are a lot of sports bettors in Ontario. In a sense, it’s an established market. Canadians love sports that are different from ours.

“American counterparts”

Ah, yes. It’s the elephant with a size of an ice rink. Sulsky wants to make sure that this is not the case.

Sulsky continues, “When people consider Ontario, they automatically think of hockey.” But hockey is not the most popular sport for gambling. The markets and scoring are limited.

When people thought Canada would be heavily based on hockey gambling, it’s actually the same gambling popular in North America, including NFL, NBA and NCAA. Baseball is also a big part of the equation. The equation includes hockey, but it’s much bigger than people realize.

There are many sports and activities that suit the Canadian taste. Curling is the most popular.

Sulsky states that 35% of Canadians watch curling. It’s a huge sport during the Olympics but, in Canada, at the larger events, the Raptors beat them on the broadcast. This is crazy but true. “It’s authentically Canadian and gives us an opportunity to develop within the sport.”

PointsBet Canada also uses local celebrities for their brand ambassador campaigns.

Sulsky states that “the Trailer Park Boys are the second-longest running show in Canada’s history.” We’ve worked with them to build connections and tap into their audiences as brand ambassadors.

Sergei Belikov, CEO, Mobinc

Ontario, on the one hand is very similar to many other markets. There are many different types of gambling enthusiasts in Ontario. All types of sport are enjoyed by fans.

Ontario, on the other hand has its own culture that operators can use to help them succeed in the marketplace.

Promis and Flexibility

What is the best thing about Ontario, Canada?

Belikov says that the best thing Ontario can offer is strong and effective local regulation. The market and the population are important but, without an adequate regulator, operating in Ontario may be very difficult. This is not what we see in Ontario.”

Godfree is in agreement. The market is growing as more and operators look to Ontario to enter the regulated market for sports betting, as AGCO is one of the strictest regulators around. The general opinion is that if you are approved by AGCO, then you will be approved everywhere.

Ontario still has a lot to learn. Both operators and suppliers have ideas on how to improve the market.

Godfree says that the lack of advertising and promotions is impacting the markets regulated by the government. We expect the regulator to start taking actions against the operators not regulated.

Sulsky considers the entire country of Canada.

He says: “I am thinking of how difficult it is for Canadians to know the difference between gray and black markets.” I would stop regulated operators from Ontario operating in non-regulated Canadian provinces.

If you are going to operate as a gaming operator licensed in Ontario, then you shouldn’t be allowed to advertise or work in any other province. The fact that an operator can be regulated by Ontario, but available on the grey market in other provinces is confusing to Canadian sports fans.

As promised, we now turn our attention to the remainder of Canada. What provinces, if any, will follow Ontario?

Nic Sulsky, chief commercial officer, PointsBet Canada

Are you my neighbor?

Godfree is more interested in the US market than unregulated Canadian provinces.

We’ll see more states in North America legalize sports betting. This is still a great time for the iGaming market across North America. The rest of Canada is making a lot more noise about whether they will follow the example of Ontario and allow sports betting in their provinces.

Sulsky is not commenting on other provinces for the time being, as there’s too much uncertainty. However, he along with PointsBet have been hard at work to create a platform that will be unique for Canadian gamblers.

He says that you need to differentiate yourself in order to succeed. PointsBet has the ability to enhance our quality. This gives us an opportunity to treat Canada and Ontario as a separate state. It’s very important to Canada.

Ontario’s Future

Sulsk takes a look at the future as Ontario celebrates one year of sports betting.

When asked what the plans of PointsBet are for next year, he replied “Continued Growth”.

We are proud to be Canadian. Sports bettors will have more reason to love their favorite sports and games if we focus on the most popular events. It’s exciting to see more people get to know our company and product. “It’s a very exciting time.”

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