Basketball Leading Handle in Ontario Sports Betting Scene?

Ontario Sports Betting Market

Just a couple of months following the launch of a legal sports betting market in Ontario, it appears that basketball, of all sports, has emerged as the sport of choice for Ontarian bettors to place their wagers on. In the U.S. at this point in the year, this would be commonplace, but in Canada, where hockey is the national sport and the Stanley Cup Finals are taking place just a few states away, this is surprising. 

Ontario launched on April 4 and has since licensed eight commercial operators: TheScore, BetMGM, DraftKings, Caesars, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetRivers, and bet365. The market and these operators are ruled and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). While the AGCO or the province has yet to release a revenue report for the first few months of operation in Ontario, it was expected to be one of the most lucrative markets heading into the launch. Ontario accounts for nearly 40% of the entire population of Canada. 

Loyalty In Ontario

Part of the initial attraction to Ontario was because of the talented teams that the province has harbored over the years and fans have taken notice. “We’ve seen 80 percent-plus of our sportsbook users betting on Ontario teams, over 50 percent have bet on the Jays, it’s a lot of hometown love,” said TheScore’s vice president of content and marketing, Aubrey Levy.

Ontario’s provincial lottery, PROLINE+ reported that 66% of moneyline bets that they handled during game 7 of the Maple Leafs and Lightning series, favored Toronto. 36.5% of all NHL sales included the Maple Leafs during the first four games of the series. This is proof that though basketball is on the rise, hockey certainly is not on the decline.

The Toronto Raptors proved their worth in the 2019 NBA season when they came out victorious as the NBA Finals Champions for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors are not alone though; the Toronto Blue Jays have some of the most exciting talent in baseball and the Toronto Maple Leafs just finished their season having made the NHL playoffs. 

Basketball’s Heating Up

Several Ontario sportsbooks have reported that basketball, surprisingly, has been the favorite of all sports to bet on since April 4. While detailed revenue reports have not been released, BetRivers did announce that 36% of their total handle in their first week of operation in Ontario was wagered on basketball. Sportsbooks are attributing this rise to a myriad of reasons. 

Nic Sulsky, PointsBet Canada Chief Commercial Operator thinks it’s a matter of convenience. “Hockey is not as easy to gamble on as basketball. There’s less stats, there’s limited in-play betting right now, and there’s less scoring,” said Sulsky in an online discussion. “There’s a lot less variance in hockey than other sports. There’s less data points.”

Meanwhile, General Manager of FanDuel Canada Dale Hooper said, “the NBA is a star-driven league. And [bettors] love the prop bets around those stars. There’s so many lines and markets you can work across. People love the NBA whether the Raptors are playing or not.”

With the NBA Finals behind us and the Stanley Cup Finals wrapping up soon, focus in Ontario will likely shift to baseball. The Blue Jays are currently second in the American League East and third in the American League overall as they fight for a playoff spot with the fan-favored Valdimir Guererro Jr. at the helm. Then, before long it will be the NFL season which is expected to generate considerable revenue for the province.