When Ontario’s regulated online gambling market launched in April 2022, the authorities decided to allow established grey market operators to apply for licenses. It was a move that raised the question of how great an advantage those established sportsbook brands may have over the operators that waited for the regulations to be in place before targeting players in Canada’s most populous province.
To examine the issue more closely, Canadian Gaming Business partnered with international iGaming affiliate Leadstar Media to see what the search data reveals about the competition between the old and new brands.
Alex Goldstein of Leadstar’s Mybettingsites.com/ca compared the search data from April 2021 – March 2022, with that of the first year of legal sports betting (April 2022 to March 2023) to see how player search intent changed.
He focused on brand searches for four operators (Betway, bet365, Sports Interaction, and Bet99) that had been active in Ontario’s grey market and analyzed the difference in search volumes between the 12-month periods before and after regulation.
To assess whether the established brands or newer brands were getting more searches on Google after the legal framework was implemented, he repeated the process with four operators (FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, and theScore.bet) that were not present in Ontario’s grey market.
Search volumes decline for former grey market operators
- Branded searches (location Ontario) decreased after regulation for all four brands
- International giants bet365 and Betway saw the biggest declines
- Canadian brands, such as Sports Interaction and Bet99, saw less of a decline
While the data, pulled from Mangools, showed that bet365 was by far the most searched for of the eight brands during the first year of regulated sports betting in Ontario, it also revealed that its search volume dropped by 25.36% from the level of the previous 12 months.
Betway experienced the largest fall, with a 42.19% year-on-year decline that saw its search volume drop below that of Sports Interaction. However, the two established Canadian brands were also less searched for than prior to regulation, as Sports Interaction and bet99 experienced drops of 12.11% and 17.48% respectively.
Explaining the pattern, Goldstein said: “Betway & Bet365 are two world leaders in iGaming, with significant followings in Canada. Search data also indicates a willingness of Canadians to support local with homegrown brands, as Sports Interaction and Bet99 are also very popular.
“We feel that these drop-offs are due to the fact that new brands are available, and there is more certainty amongst searches surrounding legality.
“Players before the launch were more inclined to search for these four brands due to their trusted reputations, while after the launch, the assurance of iGaming Ontario inspires more people to try brands that may have never heard of before the launch.”
New to Ontario and rising fast
- FanDuel, DraftKings and theScore experienced significant boosts in search volume
- Caesars sportsbook experienced a drop of 95% after regulation
The sportsbooks that launched in Ontario after the regulated market opened experienced very different trends to the longer-established brands, with one eye-catching exception.
While the number of brand searches remained well below the level of those for the former grey market operators, there were significant increases in the volumes for ‘DraftKings sportsbook’ (up 147.16% year-on-year), ‘FanDuel sportsbook’ (126.74%), and ‘theScore bet’ (380.37%). However, the number of searches for the phrase ‘Caesars sportsbook’ tumbled by 95% after the launch of the legal market.
Goldstein said: “FanDuel and DraftKings have both built popular brands in North America through their provision of Daily Fantasy Sports. theScore, a reputable sports media brand, is also a household name in Canada. Search indicates that brands that have built reputation through their provision of other services seem to have increased significantly in search, and are not showing signs of slowing down.
“Caesars, however, presents somewhat of an anomaly, as searches for the phrase ‘Caesars sportsbook’ showed the biggest drop among the phrases we’ve analyzed. Upon analyzing user reviews on Trustpilot and the app store, we found that Caesars’ product had a turbulent introduction to operations in Ontario, specifically in terms of issues with their app.
“Another thing to note is that out of the four, Caesars is the only brand that hasn’t had a long history of offering a sports-related service. While being a leader in the gambling industry with their casinos, perhaps Ontario users are more interested in betting with brands that have built a name for themselves in the realm of sports.”