Ontario sports betting: what to know and expect as gaming expands in Canada

The Canadian sports betting landscape is set to change on April 4 when Ontario launches its iGaming market, effectively opening up the country’s most populous province to commercial sportsbook competition.

Ontarians have been wagering on sporting events for decades, mainly doing so through local bookmakers and offshore sites. But the pioneering introduction of private sportsbook operators could lead to the demise of unregulated resources as the province leaves the old ways behind and shapes the future of what sports betting looks like in the Great White North.

The official debut of multi-operator single-game sports betting in Ontario is something that Canadian sports fans and sports betting stakeholders have been anxiously anticipating, but it’s also completely new and could bring with it some unfamiliarity with it at first.

Below, we’ll detail all you need to know about iGaming in Ontario including which sportsbooks to expect and how they stack up with your current options.

Ontario sports betting launch: everything changes starting April 4

Ontario’s iGaming journey can be traced back to 2019 but we are finally getting to the climax of the story, as private operators can begin offering a wide range of sports betting services as of April 4, 2022.

To some degree, this launch stands on the shoulders of Bill C-218, which cleared the way for single-game sports betting to go live nine months ago. But in the time since last August 27, Ontarians have been limited to just one provincially-run betting option.

It should be noted that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission’s (OLGC) ProLine+ sports betting platform has done a solid job in getting Ontario residents familiar with the basic nuts and bolts of a sportsbook. But it still leaves much to be desired when you stack it up with a BetMGM, PointsBet, DraftKings, or any of the other commercial sportsbooks making their way into Canada.

“The private operators who are coming into the Ontario market and getting licensed…a majority of those operators have products that have features and elements to them that are a little bit more technology or innovation first,” PointsBet Canada Chief Commercial Officer Nic Sulsky told 3DownNation.

What Sulsky is referring to in a roundabout way is the fact that private operators such as PointsBet may be able to offer more than previous options have in just about every facet. That includes bonuses, promotions, markets, and quality of odds.

“I think that OLG is an incredible business. ProLine is a great product, but I think that we’re going to be able to offer more markets and more features and better pricing than potentially some of those other provincially-run operators have been able to offer in the past,” Sulsky explained. 

There are more than a dozen mobile sportsbooks expected to eventually be operating in Ontario after receiving full clearance from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The list includes but is not limited to the following:

Again, this is not even close to the full list. And the longer it gets, the better it is for customers, who get to reap certain benefits that aren’t available at popular offshore sites or on the provincial platform.

What private operators offer that Bodog, ProLine+ don’t

In the United States, there are several populous jurisdictions with an open, competitive market that can be used as at least some kind of template for what you may see in Ontario. You can safely think of Michigan, New York, or New Jersey as examples.

The arrival of a multitude of operators creates a level of competition that leads to sportsbooks having to incentivize bettors with generous offers. This in itself results in welcome bonuses, promotions, and a huge range of betting markets at many different sportsbooks, all competing for your business.

An offshore site such as Bodog offers a wide range of betting options no doubt, but take a look at the consistency of the odds in addition to the signup offers and promotions that are available for loyal customers. There isn’t much that rewards the player for signing up and sticking around. At ProLine+, bettors get the feel of a regulated sportsbook but without a full complement of markets, promos, or bonuses.

As Canadians will come to find, private operators pay generously for your business and then continue competing for it once you’re signed up. This means that the following can potentially be on the table as benefits to take advantage of:

  • Welcome Offers
  • Referral Bonuses
  • Free Bets
  • Profit/Odds Boosts
  • Bet/Parlay Insurance
  • Reload bonuses
  • Bet & Get Deals

Aside from a huge range of markets and promotions, we are also talking about sites with outrageous user experience including easy-to-use layouts with clear interfaces that improve the betting process by making things simple. Each operator also has a customer support staff to help with any issues and a wide range of banking options.

Not all Ontario sportsbooks will launch on April 4

All of that said, Ontario sports bettors will have to somewhat live by the old adage of “good things come to those who wait” in the early stages of the province’s new iGaming market. Not all operators will be prepared to go live with their product on April 4, which leaves an opening for any sportsbook that is quick out of the gate.

There’s plenty of incentive to do so. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game unfolds the very same day of the launch, and MLB Opening Day is just days later. There’s going to be plenty of business right off the bat for Ontario sportsbooks, especially considering the expectations for the Blue Jays this coming season.

Before you know it, we’ll be staring at Week 1 of the CFL season in early June. Stay tuned for news on which sportsbooks will be live from the start in Ontario.