Provinces Hit the Ground Running from Aug. 27 as Commercial Sportsbooks Wait for Entry

As Canada’s single-event sports betting legislation comes into effect this week, provincial lottery corporations are raring to go. Ontario and British Columbia are ready to launch offerings as soon as the puck drops.

In a long-awaited announcement on August 12, Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti confirmed that Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, will be enacted on August 27.

While just two weeks’ official notice was given by the government, work has been going on behind the scenes since the legislation received Royal Assent in June.

Ontario to lead the way

Ontario is the province that has been widely tipped to lead the rollout, and its lottery corporation OLG recently confirmed it will be launching a new digital sports betting offering on the very first day of availability. Titled PROLINE+, the solution will enable OLG players to place a legal bet on a single event from their mobile device, tablet, or desktop device for the first time ever in Ontario.

The crown corporation says the offering will deliver a new and enhanced experience that provides thousands of new betting options available at any time across all major North American sports leagues and major international sports, including soccer, tennis, golf, boxing, and mixed martial arts. OLG is looking to make it easy for its users to dip their toes into the water from the get-go, allowing active customers to use their existing accounts to log in and bet as soon as PROLINE+ goes live. Meanwhile, incentives are in place for new players, who can be eligible for a $50 sports bonus offer upon sign-up.

Noting that OLG has been awaiting this day for many years, President and CEO Duncan Hannay emphasized in a press release that PROLINE+ will provide “the same security and trust that has been established by OLG’s sports products over the last 30 years.” PROLINE+ will also promote responsible gambling via player tools and educational materials, something that has been a key point of discussion throughout the legislative process.

Other provinces raring to go

British Columbia’s lottery-run sportsbook, PlayNow, is also ready to go and will launch single-event options on August 27 through an online avenue only at first, as reported by The Province. Like PROLINE+, the PlayNow platform is looking to entice new bettors, offering a deposit match of up to $250 for bettors who register at least $10 on their first deposits. In preparation, on August 3, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) announced that Genius Sports will be the official data provider for its expanded sports betting offering. Manitoba sports betting also runs through B.C.’s PlayNow platform and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation has confirmed that bettors will be able to place wagers on the outcome of a single event through the platform starting on Aug. 27.

Loto-Québec has announced that single-sports wagering will begin across the province on Aug. 27 through their Mise-o-jeu website. Unlike other provinces, Quebec sports betting has the technology in place to accept wagers through retail sites, as well as online and via mobile devices, reports

Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis has already announced it intends to go live with single-event sports betting “later in 2021” on Play Alberta, incorporating the renowned GameSense responsible gambling program as “an integral part of sports betting in Alberta”.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic Lottery Corp. said as far back as December that it is also ready to offer single-event wagering, with a “small change” to its website, according to the CBC, while Saskatchewan has given online sports betting rights to the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), which operates six casinos in the province.

Commercial opportunities await

Each province will write its own regulations to govern commercial sports betting, a process that will take some time and consideration to complete. While provincial sportsbooks will hold a monopoly in the short-term, Ontario is the biggest and likely first jurisdiction to launch a full regulated market. It remains to date the only province that has released a draft of sports betting regulations, and has also created iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), to manage sports betting and online gambling more broadly.

While the provinces await tip-off, commercial sportsbooks and operators wait in the wings.

Ranging from established North American market giants like DraftKings and PointsBet to newcomers from inside and outside Canada, there is a long line of companies looking to take advantage, with particularly keen eyes foxed on Ontario’s open regulated market.

PointsBet has been building out an experienced leadership team for PointsBet Canada, as well as becoming an official sportsbook operator of the NFL. DraftKings has expanded its daily fantasy sports partnership with the NFL to include Canada. Fellow U.S. giant Penn National Gaming has acquired Toronto-based media and betting giant Score Media, the Toronto-based media and sports betting company, and BetRegal has officially launched in the Canadian market with a free-to-play platform and major partnerships with the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the PGA of Canada. Even Toronto Star parent Torstar Corp. has announced plans to launch an online casino betting brand in Ontario that includes single-sport wagering.

The path forward

As the province’s Attorney General Doug Downey recently outlined, as quoted by the Toronto Star, Ontario is targeting giving the green light to commercial sports betting by December.

However, Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns told the Star he hopes land-based casinos, many of which will be counting on some form of single-event revenue after the devastation of the pandemic, will be able to offer single-sport wagering on-site before that December timeline.

“The industry has been hard-hit because of COVID-19, so we’re hoping to see casino sportsbook open very soon,” Burns said. “In Ontario, there have been ongoing discussions between casino operators, the OLG, and the government that need to finish quickly to get these things open.” Burns also acknowledged in an interview with Legal Sports Report in July that Alberta has expressed interest in a retail model at casinos that could include mobile options.

However the country moves forward with respect to the practicalities of commercial single-event sports betting in a revamped regulated marketplace, provinces being able to launch their own offerings before Labour Day is a quantum leap forward for Canadian gaming and sports betting. Revenues will be brought back into provinces form the grey market and offshore operators, jobs will be created, and bettors will be inundated with safe and extensive options to enhance their betting experience.

As Burns told the Star, “we can now get on with what we’ve wanted to do for so long.”

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