Understanding Ontario’s Online Gambling Plan, Part III: The Major Players

Legal Ontario online casinos and sportsbooks are coming, and operators are lining up to serve the regulated market.

How will the market shake out? We take a look at it in the various buckets of operators we’ll see enter Ontario.

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OLG/Proline+

The only operator that is currently in Ontario market as a white-market product is the lottery’s own website, OLG.ca.

The lottery has the advantage of already being established in the Ontario online gambling market. It has been offering online casino games since 2015, as well as the Proline parlay betting product that was legal before single-game watering was legalized in 2021.

Since the arrival of single-game betting, the non-parlay Proline+ has also come out of the gate with deals with the NHL and the NFL as official partners. OLG and Proline+ should therefore be a legitimate contender against the commercial licensees.

Operators already in Canada

As we sit here, we don’t know every operator that will be coming to Ontario to offer a regulated gambling product that already served Canada and the province. That said, we do have some intel and guesses at which products will become regulated in Ontario.

These companies all have a leg up as they have already served Ontario before. We won’t list every single one of them, but here are a few of the most notable ones.

Bet365

AGCO approval status: Approved

The international behemoth is already likely the biggest gray market operator in the country. Taking its existing database to the regulated market is one of the easiest moves of any operator. It has AGCO approval and is already incentivizing existing players to download a new app with geolocation, presumably to facilitate their transition to the regulated site.

Bet365 has been a relatively minor player in the US so far. That’s in large part because of its lack of desire to spend the sort of money that’s necessary to acquire customers in America. The situation in Canada may not be as intense, though the question remains whether Bet365 will lose market share to more aggressive competitors.

Betway

AGCO approval status: Not yet

The main brand of Super Group, Betway has designs on the regulated North American market. At the moment, it serves six states in the US.  Those plans now seem to include being a part of the Ontario market as a publicly traded company on the New York stock exchange.

Betway is also an official partner of the NHL, and it can be seen advertising on rinks around the league.

All of this points to Betway having an impact in the market right away.

Bet99

AGCO approval status: Not yet

We’re really not sure what Bet99 is up to. It hasn’t received AGCO approval yet, but it would certainly be awkward if it remained in the gray market.

After all, they signed a deal with Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews. Are NHL players inking deals with sportsbooks that won’t be regulated in Ontario? That would be hard to believe, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

If it is entering the regulated space, it could be a player immediately, due to that sponsorship deal, a similar one with retired UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre, and the amount of dot-net advertising it has been doing.

Bwin / Party Casino

AGCO approval status: Not yet

These are brands under Entain’s umbrella, and one would imagine that operator plans to cease its gray market operations. It forms half the BetMGM joint venture (see below), which will be entering Ontario legally, so any misbehaviour by Entain would put that in jeopardy.

That said, Entain recently bought Sports Interaction and appears to be poised keep that brand as a gray-market site, though perhaps only for the other nine provinces.

Bwin has not come for the US market, and the Party brands are just a niche player in New Jersey. However, Entain dipping these other brands’ toes into the Canadian online casino market could be a first step towards building a North American presence separate from BetMGM.

The US contenders

These companies aren’t entirely American, but they all have done well in the US market and hope to replicate some of that success north of the border.

FanDuel

AGCO approval status: Approved

FanDuel is the North American flagship brand of Flutter, the world’s largest online gambling company. It’s the leader in US online gambling as things stand, although mostly in the sports betting space. It is the No. 1 operator for that vertical in most states in which it operates.

Does that make it FanDuel’s god-given right to ascend to the top in Ontario? Not really. It faces the headwinds that everyone in this group will face, i.e. competition against a well-established gray market.

That being said, FanDuel’s strategy has worked in the US, and it will bring that customer acquisition machine to Ontario. It has a slick product and attractive bonus offers like everyone here, and these could play well.

DraftKings

AGCO approval status: Not yet

Generally the No. 2 operator in most US markets, DraftKings covets growth and gaining marketshare everywhere it goes.

Like FanDuel, it’s not entirely foreign to Canada given its run as a daily fantasy sports site before it became a sportsbook and casino. But it’s certainly not a household name.

DraftKings’ stock has not done well in recent months, and the company may see a successful Ontario launch as a must.

Caesars

AGCO approval status: Approved

Caesars is one of the top operators in the US now, thanks to a massive ad blitz in late 2021 and early 2022. But that massive spend has only allowed to just squeak into the top tier of operators in America.

It also has the advantage of having a casino in the province, in Windsor. The name recognition and local flavor that brings could help it out.

Can all of that add up to a successful launch? Only time will tell.

BetMGM

AGCO approval status: Approved

Of all of these, BetMGM arguably has the best casino product alongside the sportsbook, something that could play well in Canada against brands that are considered sports-first.

It’s a joint venture between MGM Resorts International, which provides the brand power, customer databases and marketing, and Entain, which supplies technology and online know-how.

BetMGM is another company that has spent aggressively to gain market share. It’s starting to ease off the gas pedal, but we would still expect to see a big push in Ontario. That’s backed up by the fact they have inked Edmonton Oilers star and reigning NHL MVP Connor McDavid to an endorsement deal.

Like everyone else, going up against established operators will be challenging for MGM. It’s also not clear how much name recognition MGM holds in Canada, as unlike Caesars, there are no casinos here bearing its name.

The upstarts

There are also some wild cards to keep an eye on in Ontario:

theScore

AGCO approval status: Approved

Penn National Gaming bought theScore in 2021 mostly for its potential as a gambling product not because of any desire on Penn’s part to become more of a media entity. True, Penn also owns a stake in Barstool Sports, but there, too, the focus is on sports betting, not company’s media activities.

And that opportunity with theScore is largely focused on the Canadian market.

To date, theScore Bet has underperformed in the nascent US market, barely moving the needle in any state in which it’s launched. Will it be different in Ontario?

TheScore is clearly a more Canadian brand that’s well known in the country, even though it has decent-enough penetration in the US. In order to compete, theScore will have to do much better at converting its sports customers to gambling, something Barstool has also struggled with to an extent.

NorthStar Gaming

AGCO approval status: Not yet

There’s a second homegrown brand coming, which will be a complete unknown. The media company Torstar, which owns many important Canadian newspapers, launched its own gaming company NorthStar Gaming.

It has technology deals with Playtech and Kambi, which should allow it to offer a full featured online casino and sportsbook.

Beyond that, very little is known about what this company will look like or what its plans are.

PointsBet

AGCO approval status: Approved

PointsBet, like theScore, is hoping to some extent that a local flavor will help its market entry.

Unlike the others, it’s not a Canadian company – Australian, in fact. However, it has made a lot of moves in Ontario already, from sponsorships and endorsement deals, to hiring staff on the ground.

It was also one of the first operators to get AGCO approval, perhaps a sign of how much importance it places on the market.

But, like theScore, it’s been a marginal player in the US, albeit not quite as far behind the top-tier operators. Its main selling point is its eponymous Points Betting sports product with variable risk and payouts. Its success in Ontario may depend on how appealing the locals find that concept.

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Next Article: Part IV – The Revenue Question

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