For more than six decades, the Canadian Football League (CFL) has been a staple in the collective consciousness of sports fans across the Great White North. The Grey Cup, annually awarded to the league champion, has been handed out since 1909 and is one of the most coveted trophies in all North American sports.
The CFL has attracted attention from sports bettors for a long time but now that Canada sports betting expansion has led to an increase in the number of online sportsbook options available, there is sure to be more action on Canadian football than ever before.
But whether you’re using Ontario sportsbooks or not, there’s plenty to know about this league if you plan to be a successful bettor. Below, we’ll detail all you need to know about CFL betting in Canada including the different bet types you’ll come across, some strategies to adopt, and mistakes to avoid as you start betting on football in Canada.
2022 CFL season format
Before we get into any betting information, let’s first nail down what we can expect from the upcoming CFL season. That includes the format and key information about when it starts and ends.
When does the 2022 CFL season start?
Week 1 of the 2022 CFL season kicks off on June 9, as the season usually runs from mid-June until late November when the Grey Cup is played. Each of the nine CFL teams play an 18-game schedule over a 21-week season that includes three bye weeks for all teams. The 109th Grey Cup will be played on November 20, 2022.
How do the CFL playoffs work?
After 18 games, six teams qualify for the postseason, with the No. 1 club in each division getting a bye to the Division Championships. The next two teams in each division are seeded No. 2 and No. 3, with the former playing at the latter in the Division Semifinals.
The winner of those games plays the top seed for the East or West championship, with the two winners receiving bids to the Grey Cup final.
How to bet on CFL games
Betting on Canadian Football League games is very much like betting on the NFL or NCAA football in the United States, or even basketball leagues such as the NBA. The three most popular bet types are moneylines, spreads, and totals, with props being offered by some sportsbooks, depending on the league and game.
The conventional markets are the perfect place to start, so let’s look at an example using a couple of popular CFL teams:
|Saskatchewan Roughriders||+3.5 (-110)||+140||Over 47.5 (-105)|
|Toronto Argonauts||-3.5 (-110)||-160||Under 47.5 (-115)|
Moneylines are the most basic form of betting there is, since it only requires you to pick which team will win the game. It’s a great place for any novice to start, as it’s simple to understand and calculate potential wins and losses.
It will be labelled on every sportsbook app, but you can always point it out because it’s got a plus or minus in front of it and is three digits long in most cases, especially when it comes to pregame lines.
With American odds, favourites have a negative moneyline and the number represents what you must risk to win $100 in profit. At -160, a bet on the Toronto Argonauts means risking $160 for every $100, which would result in $260 in total returns.
Underdogs command a more advantageous payout but are the team dubbed less likely to win by oddsmakers. The moneyline is equal to what you can win when betting $100, so a wager of that amount on Saskatchewan could earn $140 in profit and a total return of $240 when counting your original stake.
If looking to wager a lesser amount, still use the moneyline and $100 as your guide, then adjust for your exact amount.
Since all teams aren’t of equal quality, oddsmakers use point spreads to even out the game for bettors. While the two teams in our examples have moneylines that are pretty far apart, we’ll notice that both are looking at a 3.5-point spread.
There are two aspects of a point spread to consider: the spread itself and the price you pay for it, also known as the juice.
In our example, bettors who take Toronto -3.5 (-110) need the Argos to win by four points and must risk $110 to win $100. On the other side, taking Ottawa +3.5 (-110) means the same risk and reward, but instead requires the Redblacks to lose by three or less if they don’t win the game.
In general, point spreads create better payouts for favourites but add a margin for error with underdogs.
Point spreads are the same for both teams, though it’s possible for the price (juice) that accompanies those spreads to vary. The most common starting point is -110, though it isn’t uncommon for the price of point spreads to vary from -125 to +100.
Also known as over/unders, betting on totals is quite simple. All you’re doing is picking whether the combined score of the game will go over or under the total set by oddsmakers.
Similar to point spreads, totals are the same on both sides with standard juice being -110, though it will vary between -125 and +100 on nearly all occasions. There are also alternate lines available for totals.
Using our example, a bet on Over 47.5 (-105) means risking $105 to profit $100 and needing 48 or more combined points to win the wager. Wagering on the Under 47.5 (-115) requires 47 or fewer total points in the game at risk of $115 for every $100 in winnings.
Prop bets are essentially any wager that isn’t the moneyline, spread, or total. Most props are broken up into player, team, and game props, with the former being the most popular.
When it comes to football, player props are centred around individual statistics such as passing, receiving, and rushing yards, in addition to touchdown scorers. Team props will feature team totals for quarters, halves, and full games, among other things.
Game props concentrate on in-game events that aren’t related to a specific player or team, such as the total number of touchdowns or field goals in a game.
With betting expansion reaching Canada and more online sportsbooks in Ontario offering CFL games, we should see some additional prop markets compared to what was previously available in the United States.
If we are using what is available for NFL games at sportsbooks across the United States as an example, we could see some of the following:
- Touchdown Scorer (First/Last Of Game, Anytime, 1st Half, 2nd Half)
- Over-Under Passing, Rushing, & Receiving Yards
- Over-Under Pass Attempts, Completions, & Receptions
- Quarters/Halves Moneyline, Spread, & Total
- Team Totals (Quarters, Halves, Full Game)
- Winning Margin
- O/U Total Field Goals/Touchdowns (Halves, Full Game, By Team)
- First Team To X Points (10, 15, 20, 25, etc.)
- Halftime/Full-Time Result
The popularity and growth of mobile gambling have led to a dramatic surge in people taking part in live betting, which occurs after a game has already begun. Whether you’re strategically letting part of the game play out, or just missed kickoff and still want to get in on the action, in-game betting lines allow you to place wagers until deep into the fourth quarter.
Most sportsbooks will offer moneylines, spreads, and totals, but it remains to be seen whether CFL props will be available, especially after kickoff. That said, even the standard options allow for hedging and middling opportunities that can lead to profits.
CFL futures betting | Grey Cup odds
The Canadian Football League season culminates every year with the Grey Cup, which is comparable enough to the Super Bowl in the NFL as a championship game. Although, it is safe to say the Super Bowl is easily as much a spectacle as it is a football game.
Even though the CFL’s inaugural season was 1958, football in Canada goes back much longer. The Grey Cup was first awarded in 1909 and several of the league’s franchises won Grey Cups as different iterations of the franchise, or as different franchises altogether.
Fast forward to the present and not only is the Grey Cup one of the sport’s great trophies, but it’s also a popular source of betting action for CFL fans.
Perhaps the best thing about betting on futures is that the odds are longer and the potential payouts are bigger. Even the favourites near the top of the board have long enough odds to take a stab, though picking the winner of the championship before a season can be tough.
You may also want to wait until the season starts to see teams in action and place a live bet on a championship winner. A third option would be to place preseason wagers and then hope for an opportunity to hedge and guarantee a profit during the season.
Grey Cup betting can also provide a rooting interest for far longer than just one game. It can also help bettors limit the amount they wager weekly. Even if you only put a small amount on some of these futures, there’s no better feeling than getting to the big game knowing you’ve got a season-long bet on the line that you’ve waited to cash for months.
In addition to betting on the Grey Cup, you may also find preseason odds for the winner of the East and West divisions, in addition to win totals for the regular season.
Best CFL betting apps
Single-game wagering has been around in Canada for a little while but to this point, there have been very few options. While PROLINE+ is serviceable as the closest thing to a full-fledged sportsbook, betting expansion in Ontario is set to change the game.
Suddenly, those in Ontario will have access to a much broader range of sportsbook options. The competition can only mean good things for the bettor, as operators will use promotional offers as tactics to incentivize playing at their sites.
Bettors will soon come to see that there are many more betting options and offers than what they’ve witnessed to this point. There are going to be plenty of Canadian sportsbooks to choose from, but the ones listed below should be among the best:
DraftKings Sportsbook: There are many reasons why DraftKings is an industry leader wherever it operates. CFL bettors will quickly learn that if you want the best combination of available sports, competitive odds, promotional offers, and a generous welcome offer, this is the place for you.
BetRivers Sportsbook: If you want to bet on CFL futures, this is your place. There are several sites with Grey Cup odds, but not nearly as many with divisional futures. It doesn’t hurt that it has a massive betting menu and is known for a generous offer to new players.
BetMGM Sportsbook: BetMGM is another site with tons of betting options, including Grey Cup odds and weekly CFL betting lines. This site could also earn you rewards or discounts at BetMGM properties on top of the many sportsbook promotions the site is known for.
Caesars Sportsbook: Caesars has a great welcome offer in the U.S. and an extensive betting menu to offer and plenty of profit boosts. What they will offer in terms of Canadian football remains to be seen and the application can be prone to some issues.
FanDuel Sportsbook: FanDuel, like DraftKings, has a huge betting menu with a wide range of options available. If you’re trying to narrow down which sites will have the most to offer a CFL fan, put FD on the short list. It has Grey Cup odds available throughout the offseason and will have weekly odds as well. In total, the sportsbook stacks up with the best of them.
CFL parlay betting
Canadian bettors are probably all too familiar with the concept of parlays, since that’s what wagering in the country was limited to for so long. Single-game betting opens the door to so many markets and possibilities, that many Canadians are just getting used to that freedom.
That said, the expansion of online sportsbooks means that bettors will now be able to include many of those new single-game betting markets into parlays if they so choose. There are a seemingly endless number of possibilities for those looking to bet parlays at online sportsbooks in Canada, and that includes the Canadian Football League.
When it comes to CFL games, bettors should expect to be able to parlay any moneyline, spread, or total they wish with other football games, or other sports entirely. If props are included, those may also be eligible to be combined into a parlay.
CFL same-game parlays
Same game parlays have become incredibly popular at sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, among others. These are most commonly placed on NFL and NBA games, though they are also available for the NHL and MLB. It is unknown whether the CFL will be included in this, but there is a chance that Canadian-based apps could amend the feature to include the league.
CFL betting offers
The best thing about Ontario online sportsbooks being added to the fold is that the competition usually creates positives for the betting public. Sportsbooks promote welcome offers and promotions designed to promote loyalty, all of which help put players in some way, shape, or form.
The exact wording of certain types of offers may be a bit different depending on location, but the deals you can expect to receive are the following:
Free bets/no deposit offer
One popular offer is referred to as a free bet. Essentially, it is awarded to new players as part of the signup process and doesn’t require any deposit or spending of your own money to receive. All that’s required is registration, and the bet will be credited to your account.
In many cases, this bet will be one part of a multi-part offer. For example, the free bet could be for signing up while an additional amount is paid for depositing a certain amount into the new account.
Deposit Match Offer
Potentially the best welcome offer to receive, a deposit match offer involves the sportsbook matching your deposit in free bets or site credit. All you need to do is make your investment, and no spending of your own money is required.
The exact amount of the deposit match will vary depending on the site offering it, but most matches are 100 percent. If this is part of a larger offer, the matching percentage may be smaller.
If you do get a dollar-for-dollar match, that’s the quickest way to double the amount of site currency that you’re able to wage with. Stay on the lookout for any wagering requirements that may also come with winnings earned from deposit match free bets or site credit.
Bet insurance is quite commonly offered at regulated commercial sportsbooks nowadays, and they focus on your first wager with the site. After signing up and depositing, you place your first wager. If it wins, you’re off with some immediate profits. If you lose, the site will reimburse you up to a certain amount with the site credit.
From there, you’ll have an additional chance to place a bet and try to earn profits. Keep in mind that free bets or site credit awarded via bet insurance are not returned to your account after bet placement. If you do receive bet insurance, you will likely have seven days to place an eligible wager.
CFL sportsbook promotions
It’s possible that sportsbooks in Canada will offer CFL promos during the season. Among the offers generally presented by leading sportsbook platforms in other jurisdictions are the following:
- Odds/Profit Boosts: This involves the site boosting the line to a more advantageous number. Most sportsbooks offer multiple daily odds boosts, and some also offer profit boosts that can be applied to any wager of your choice on the site.
- Parlay/Bet Insurance: Bet insurance might be part of a welcome offer, but it could also be a promotion for existing customers. This involves the sportsbook reimbursing a lost wager in site credit up to a certain amount. Some sites may also offer bet insurance for parlays, though there could be a condition that all legs except one must hit.
CFL betting vs. NFL betting | What’s the difference?
Because the NFL and CFL appear similar in so many ways, and they are, bettors can sometimes make the miscalculation of betting on CFL the same way they would on the matchups in the United States.
It’s important to know that Canadian football has several features that are all its own, differing it from the NFL. Unlike the NFL, the CFL features:
Three downs, not four
This makes the CFL a much more pass-heavy league since you really only have two plays to make a first down before it becomes decision time. Although this can certainly lead to higher game totals, it can also result in more drives being short-circuited by sacks and interceptions.
It’s also worth noting that this creates far more kickoffs and returns compared to the American game, placing an emphasis on special teams. But more on that below.
Larger playing surface/end zone
With a 110-yard-long and 65-yard-wide field, the CFL outpaces the NFL in this regard by 10 yards of length and 11.75 yards of width.
This affords the opportunity for offensive skill players to accumulate more yardage overall. Which is an important thing to keep in mind for prop bets. The wider field and longer end zone (20 yards, compared to the NFL’s 10) also helps facilitate more red-zone scoring by giving receivers more room to maneuver.
12 Players on each side & unlimited pre-snap motion
You know all that extra space on the field? Well, some of it gets taken up by an extra player on each side. Rather than 11 players lining up for each team, there are 12 in a CFL game.
So while the field is larger, there are more players on it. Additionally, running backs and slotbacks are allowed unlimited pre-snap motion up to one yard behind the line of scrimmage, another wrinkle that favours more offence.
Special teams play a prominent role
As mentioned above, special teams are a huge part of wins and losses in the CFL, and part of that is because there are only three downs and more scoring than the NFL. That means more kickoffs, punts, and returns, all key special teams plays.
In addition to the three-down rule, a recent statistical analysis revealed that CFL teams averaged approximately three more kickoff and punt returns each per game in their 2019 season than NFL teams did that same year. There are also no fair catches allowed on punts in the CFL, but the coverage team must also observe a five-yard “halo” around the returner until the ball is caught on the fly.
There are also a couple of additional scoring opportunities in the CFL that arise exclusively on special teams. Missed field goals provide a longshot chance to score in the NFL, but these are much more common in the CFL.
One thing important to note is the goalposts are at the front of the end zone. Another is that if a returner can escape their own end, the wider field offers more room for returners to work with and potentially outrun would-be tacklers.
Another way to score on special teams is with a rouge, also known as a “single”, which is unique to the CFL.
Single points aren’t just after touchdowns
The CFL scoring option that is exclusive to the Canadian game is the rouge. Not only can teams get a single point following a touchdown, but there are other situations in which it can be earned.
A rouge is awarded to a kicking team when the ball is kicked into the end zone by any legal means other than a conversion attempt or field goal and the receiving team does not return or kick the ball out of its end zone. It is also awarded when a kick, excluding a kickoff, goes out of bounds in the end zone without being touched.
NFL bettors are accustomed to points being mostly doled out in three, six, or seven-point increments, and it’s part of the reason why oddsmakers set spreads around those key numbers. In the CFL, the rouge can knock a margin off of a key number, so it’s something to take into account when wagering.
Timeouts & play clock
The Canadian Football League employs a 20-second play clock that starts once the whistle is blown and the ball is set. In the NFL, the 40-second play clock starts immedaitely at the end of the previous play.
This is another reason why there are many drives and points throughout a CFL game, and drives that last just two plays can be over in a matter of seconds with such little time between snaps.
There is a two-minute warning at the end of each half in the NFL, which is a three-minute warning in the CFL. After the three-minute warning, the clock stops whenever the ball is dead, which is part of the reason why there can be so much action in such a short amount of game time.
It’s not uncommon to see multiple drives and lead changes in the final moments of a half or game following the three-minute warning. Live bettors should be aware that points can be put on the board in a hurry during these points in the game, particularly in the fourth quarter.
And while NFL teams get three timeouts per half, CFL teams only get two per game and must use them wisely.
CFL Game Rule Ratio
Another aspect of the CFL to be aware of is from the roster construction standpoint. The most important aspects of the rule are that each active roster needs at least 21 Canadian players and at least seven of those players must be starters. Below, we have a deeper explanation of the rule.
The Game Rule Ratio states that each team may have a maximum of 46 players, 45 of which are active. This includes two quarterbacks and 44 others. Out of the 44 remaining players, no more than 20 can be American.
The 45-man active roster breaks down this way:
- Two QBs (no designation)
- Maximum of 20 American players
- Minimum of 21 Canadian players
- Minimum of 2 Global players
Four of the American players must be labeled ‘designated Americans’ and they are eligible to play on special teams or replace an American starting player, but cannot start themselves.
Of the 24 starting players, at least seven of them must be Canadian. Since the quarterback does not need to get a designation, that means up to 16 starters can be occupied by American players.
The NFL season is 18 weeks long with each team playing 17 games, and it begins in September and ends in February with the Super Bowl. The CFL season runs on an opposite schedule, though the two do overlap a bit.
Canadian football begins in June and ends in November with the Grey Cup. The regular season is 21 weeks long and each team plays 18 games, giving each club multiple weeks off throughout the campaign.
While NFL teams with an early bye can be at a disadvantage late in the year, there is no such worry when betting on the CFL, as the schedule is pretty balanced overall.
CFL betting strategy
The CFL has been offering an exciting and fast-paced alternative brand of football for over 60 years, but for many U.S. sports fans, it’s largely remained an enigma due to only modest coverage and the fact its season partly overlaps with that of the NFL campaign each year.
Needless to say, the CFL has been even more of an unknown quantity betting-wise, with demand for wagering markets for the league dwarfed by those of the NFL.
That’s begun changing in recent years, however, with the league enjoying a more prominent presence thanks to the proliferation of paid daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests on DraftKings and wagering markets on the league’s games in virtually every major U.S. sportsbook.
Now, with the advent of a legalized, multi-operator sports betting industry in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, many of those who have followed the CFL closely and perhaps even bet on the league throughout the years through unregulated platforms will now have a wide array of CFL-based wagers available to them.
Before placing any bets, consider implementing the following CFL betting strategies:
Know The CFL’s Unique Rules
While there are certainly many similarities between the CFL and NFL brands of professional gridiron football, it is important for a bettor to understand those areas where the rules of play diverge. As noted in an above section, there are plenty of differences to keep in mind including:
- Three-Down Rule
- 12 Players On Each Side
- Larger Playing Surface
- Special Teams Are Vital
- Rouge (Single Point)
- Two Timeouts Per Game
- 20-Second Play Clock
Shop For Betting Lines
This is on the list of reasons why it pays to have multiple sportsbook accounts. Irrespective of what sport one wagers on, shopping for the best lines is always recommended. That’s particularly true for the CFL, where there is less cumulative money being wagered compared to many other betting markets.
CFL lines can move quickly and fairly drastically if there’s enough early or sharp money put in play, but that’s often the exception and there’s generally a benefit in being patient.
Because there isn’t as much of a betting spotlight on CFL games, there’s not as great a need for urgency in terms of jumping on lines as there would be, say, for NFL games.
Sportsbooks also aren’t typically as sharp with their CFL lines as they are with other North American team sports, although that could certainly be different over time in Ontario.
Wager Late In The Week
For a few reasons, it could pay to wait on placing CFL bets until close to kickoff. Because there isn’t as much of a betting spotlight on CFL games, there’s not as great a need for urgency in terms of jumping on lines as there would be, say, for NFL games.
There isn’t going to be a massive amount of action pushing the line right away, and there will be less eye on these games overall. Sportsbooks also aren’t typically as sharp with their CFL lines as they are with other North American team sports, although that could certainly be different over time in Ontario.
CFL lines can move quickly and fairly drastically if there’s enough early or sharp money put in play, but that’s often the exception and there’s generally a benefit in being patient.
Know The Weather Report
Although the CFL starts in June, winter weather effects typically manifests itself toward the latter part of the season. Therefore, CFL games can at times be impacted by significant weather events in the last few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs.
With the heightened importance of the passing, kicking, and return games in the CFL, it’s particularly prudent to be aware of potential weather disruptions when considering CFL bets.
CFL betting mistakes to avoid
Being Unfamiliar With CFL Rules: We’ve been through the differences between the two leagues quite a bit and if you’re a regular CFL who doesn’t dabble in American football, this doesn’t matter for you. But it can be particularly important for anyone new to CFL betting and/or planning to go back and forth since there are aspects of the leagues that are different.
There are minor but important differences in scoring, rules, timeouts, the play clock, and personnel among other things. Be familiar with the specifics of the CFL rulebook.
Chasing Losses: As with any wagering on any other sport, it’s important to be mindful of managing one’s bankroll responsibly. That includes not throwing the proverbial good money after bad by trying to power through a rough betting stretch.
There are only four weekly games in the CFL since it’s a nine-team league, but there are two more weeks to work with than the NFL since each team plays a total of 18 games over the course of 21 weeks. If mired in a difficult stretch, there’s plenty of value in potentially pulling back for at least a week to take a mental break and survey the landscape.
Best CFL bets for beginners
While it shouldn’t take too long for newer bettors to get used to the options offered at Ontario online sportsbooks, there are certain markets that may be perfect for a novice looking to dip their toes in the CFL betting water. Take the following into consideration:
- Moneylines: These bets are just so easy to understand that anyone could place the first bet of their life on a moneyline and know what they are rooting for. This is the wager for anyone just trying to keep things simple or enjoy a few hours of entertainment with money on the line
- Futures: Whether it’s season win totals, division winners, or picking a Grey Cup champion, futures are simple bets to grasp. They also provide a rooting interest for a longer period of time and can preserve the bankroll, plus the odds are longer and the payouts are larger.
- Totals: Sometimes, predicting the pace of the game or the success of the offences is a bit easier than choosing one side to win over the other. It’s possible that weather, injuries, or styles of play will lead you to lean toward a total before a side.
- Live Betting: In-game betting is a fairly new phenomenon, and also one that can be exciting and lucrative if done the right way. Moneylines, spreads, and totals will update as the game progresses, as will the prices for each one.
Whether you’ve missed kickoff or just couldn’t make a decision on what to bet, live betting odds are there for you whenever you need them. Because you may not be an expert on all CFL teams, you may want to see how the game plays out before picking a moneyline, spread or total. This could be one way to gain value compared to pregame lines.
How to place CFL bets in Canada
Before anyone can begin taking advantage of the many forthcoming sports betting options in Ontario, including placing single-game bets on the CFL, the first step is registering for an online sportsbook account. This can be easily achieved on a desktop or a mobile device in a matter of minutes. Take these steps:
- Click on the preferred sportsbook link to be redirected to the registration page for that operator.
- Fill out all required information (email, address, upload photo ID) to create your new account. This takes just a few moments and will activate any applicable welcome offer.
- Deposit into your new sportsbooks account. If receiving a match, offer this will be reflected in your balance.
- Once your account has been filled, both your balance and any funds claimed from your signup offer can be used as you begin placing bets.
If you have not done so during the signup process, be sure to download the application for the sportsbook you have signed up for. This will provide easy access to all the CFL markets that are offered.
Best Ontario CFL sportsbooks
Canada sports betting | Frequently asked questions
The CFL is one sport of many offered at Canada online sportsbooks. Here are some questions about betting that can be related to CFL bettors.
When is the CFL Draft?
Traditionally, the CFL Draft takes place in early May. The 2022 CFL Draft is scheduled for May 3, 2022, in Toronto. There are eight total rounds and 74 total selections, with Toronto, Ottawa, and B.C. all having nine picks.
Who is the best player in the CFL?
There are plenty of stars in the CFL but the Most Outstanding Player award in 2021 went to Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Zach Collaros. Starting all 13 games, Collaros had a 70.2 completion percentage to go with 20 touchdowns to six interceptions. Collaros helped lead Winnipeg to its (and his) second-straight Grey Cup title in 2021.
How many games are in a CFL season?
There are 21 weeks in a CFL season, with each team playing 18 games. Each team is afforded three bye weeks, so the season ranges from mid-June until late November.
Who broadcasts CFL games?
Through 2025, viewers can watch the CFL on TSN and RDS across all platforms in Canada. Both are owned by CTV Specialty Television, which is jointly owned by Bell Media and ESPN.
Can I stream CFL games?
Yes, you can stream CFL games on mobile devices by downloading applications from TSN or RDS in the app store and signing in with information from a participating cable provider.