Analysis: Oh Canada? Where Are The Ontario Sports Betting Numbers?

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Ontario sports betting

Online Ontario sports betting is nearing four months of action, yet there is still no clear indication of how the market is performing.

While there is no legal requirement for regulators to release Ontario sports betting revenue information, a timely, transparent report would help to see if revenue promises from the legislative process are holding up. It will also show if regulations are successfully migrating gray-market operators to the legal market.

Despite the lack of a requirement to release a report, the regulatory entity iGaming Ontario has committed to releasing online gaming and sports betting numbers quarterly. However, the report remains nonexistent despite the market opening April 4.

“I think it’s a case of the first one and they want to get it right,” Canadian Gaming Association President Paul Burns told LSR last month. “I do know they want to do it and intend to do it. Hopefully, before long, we’ll see some numbers in Ontario soon.”

Why no monthly sports betting report in Ontario?

Representatives from iGO continue to deflect requests on an updated timeline for a report. In May, the organization said a report would wait until after the June 2 provincial election, which is when LSR legal analyst John Holden first wrote about why revenue transparency was important in Canada sports betting.

Shortly following the election, at the Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto, representatives from iGO and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario said a report was near. Yet nearly two months later, it is still nowhere to be found.

Unlike in the US sports betting and gaming sector, the Canadian industry does not have a history of monthly reports. Burns said most insight into the industry comes from provincial lottery corporation annual reports.

Ontario nears unprecedented wait times

Reports from US sports betting revenue markets vary widely in lag time. Each state follows a different timeline while also offering different data sets.

For instance, following the launch of online New York sports betting in January, regulators are releasing weekly reports. Meanwhile, Illinois sports betting monthly reports are regularly about a month behind other states.

Arizona, which launched in September 2021, took until late December to release its first two months of data. It remains the laggard of the reporting jurisdictions, recently reporting its May figures.

What will industry get from Ontario?

There is hope an iGO report will provide a detailed peek at what is happening in Ontario. The province is one of the largest North American jurisdictions to have an open sports betting market.

On the less optimistic side, several industry sources told LSR at the SBC Summit North America last month that they expect a breakdown of wagers by sport and not much else. There was not much hope there would be a revenue breakdown by operator as seen in many US states.

Regardless of whether regulators release Ontario numbers or what they include, there will be some clarity into the market as gaming companies continue earnings reports this week. BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt provided a little bit of insight at the Canadian Gaming Summit last month.

Any Ontario sports revenue is helpful

While an operator breakdown might be unlikely, it would still be beneficial to see overall handle and revenue. During parliamentary hearings last year, estimates suggested Ontario bettors wagered up to CAD$700 million on offshore gaming sites.

Heading into the April 4 launch, a major goal for regulators was converting gray-market operators into the regulated market. Several gray-market sportsbooks have migrated in Ontario, including bet365 and Betway.

It would be interesting to see how much of the market those operators control with existing customer bases. Burns said more gray-market operators are in the approval pipeline and will likely launch in the coming weeks.

“There soon will be a day there will be no gray and it will be black and white,” Burns said. “I suspect it’s probably not too far off.”

First insight from PointsBet

PointsBet provided a first look at the Ontario market during its recent earnings call. It took approximately $11 million in bets during the quarter.

PointsBet executives said during the call they were happy with the performance. What does that number mean in regard to the overall market? Frankly, it is hard to tell without any more information from the province or other operators.

If PointsBet holds a similar 3.5% market share as it does in its US markets, the overall size of Ontario sports betting could be disappointing. However, if the handle does match up with the market’s population size in relation to US states, PointsBet is likely underperforming.