WNBA coming to Canada offers another opportunity for Canadian betting

Toronto will launch a WNBA team in 2026

On Thursday, the WNBA announced that Canada will get its first team in the pro women’s basketball league.

Larry Tanenbaum‘s Kilmer Sports Ventures has been awarded a franchise that will begin play in 2026 at Toronto’s 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum.

Tannenbaum, who is chairman of the board at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which owns the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, unveiled the franchise at an announcement attended by the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and musician Drake.

He clarified that while the team’s home base will be Toronto, “we will play games in Vancouver and Montreal throughout the season, uniting the country behind our franchise.” Kilmer president Teresa Resch, the former Raptors VP of basketball operations, said the new team will play across Canada “in a way that no other professional sports team in Canada has ever done.”

The unnamed franchise will be the WNBA’s 14th team and first north of the border.

The country has hosted WNBA games before, including at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena last year and Edmonton’s Rogers Place this year, but has never had a team to patriotically align with.

When the team begins play, it will not only give Canada a long-awaited presence in one of the most prominent North American women’s sports leagues but also give Canadian bettors a new home-nation team to cheer for and follow. Canadians love to bet on their teams and Tannebaum was keen to stress the WNBA outfit will be “Canada’s team,” not only Toronto’s.

WNBA sees huge growth and huge opportunity

When it comes to both sports fandom and betting, the WNBA has moved forwards in leaps and bounds in recent years.

Speaking on a panel at the SBC Summit North America earlier this month, Lauren Dwyer, the league’s senior director of growth and innovation, noted that 2023 was the most-viewed WNBA season in 21 years and the best-attended in 13 years.

Sportsbooks are taking advantage. Multiple sportsbooks have reported WNBA betting volume surging by hundreds of percent last year and again to start the 2024 season amid the league’s surging popularity and the star power around first-year entry Caitlyn Clark. On a separate Summit panel, FanDuel‘s VP of brand strategy Jen Matthews noted that from 2022 to 2023, FanDuel’s betting on women’s sports including the WNBA more than doubled.

Dwyer stressed that the size of opportunity for potential betting partners is huge.

Fans of women’s sport want to support the brands that support us,” Dwyer told attendees. She noted that FanDuel, the league’s biggest betting partner, has shown “authenticity” in the way it markets its WNBA offerings and supports the leagues.

Matthews added that in order to get people betting more on the WNBA, FanDuel provided better quality and quantity of markets on the league. “We’re giving more people, both men and women, more ways to interact with it than they may have had in the past.”

Fans notice those things, said Dwyer.

“Our fans see that and they want to do their betting with FanDuel because of that. So there’s that shared promotion. We have other great partners in Bally’s and Fanatics and they’re all seeing that benefit. These partnerships open up the ability to offer games and contests on those sports betting platforms as well as for us to really shine a light on everything that’s great about the WNBA. It also opens up the ability to do team deals. We look at that from a national and international landscape.”

Prime partnership potential?

That offers a significant opportunity for sportsbooks operating within Ontario’s regulated gaming market, several of whom have struck partnerships with existing leagues, teams and competitions since the market opened in April 2022.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming is a partner of MLSE and a Canadian partner of all four major North American sports leagues. FanDuel and PointsBet are partners of MLSE, and both BetMGM and FanDuel are official sports betting partners of the NFL and the NHL in Canada. The made-in-Canada sportsbook theScore Bet is the exclusive official partner of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“As we look at betting partnerships, we open up the ability to not only have great games and contests on those sportsbook platforms but also really shine a light on everything that’s great about the WNBA,” added Dwyer. “And from there, that opens up the ability to do team deals. We look at that from a national and international landscape.”

Many of these partnerships tend to include multiple common factors, including increased brand visibility in physical locations, shared advertising and a particular depth or range of betting markets on the relevant teams or leagues.

On that latter point, Dwyer noted that catering to WNBA fans, sports betting enthusiasts, and casual observers alike is important for mutual growth.

“The more our betting partners are offering more markets, the more people are going to bet. If you build it, they will come. The key point is to invest in the product and invest in the markets that are available.”

While the WNBA’s partnership with FanDuel will presumably expand into Canada, there could be space for other sportsbooks, gaming suppliers, technology data providers and other companies operating in the Canadian gaming market to come on board.

In Canada, the audience is clearly there for this WNBA team. The game hosted at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto in 2023 drew a sell-out of nearly 20,000 fans. Thanks to the increased prominence of the league and its stars like Clark, the league has only grown since then.

Tanenbaum noted that when he brought the Raptors to Toronto in the 1990s, he saw a nation ready to welcome the NBA. He sees it again now. “Today, we’re here because once again, we were in the right place at the right time.”

The WNBA coming to Canada isn’t just a notable moment for basketball fans or women’s sports fans but also for betting. As the popularity of the league keeps climbing, the league coming to town could be a whole new frontier for sports wagering in Great White North.

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