If you’re wondering just how big legal sports betting might be in Ontario from 4th April, perhaps a good place to look might be New York. The Empire State smashed all predictions in its first five weeks of activity after launching as a regulated market, notching up an incredible $2.4 billion in wagers from gamblers betting through licensed websites and apps.
To put these numbers in context, according to the American Gaming Association, in the entirety of 2021, a total of $57 billion was wagered on sports in the country.
New York’s regulated online gambling market went live on 6th January with nine licensed sportsbooks and the early surge of betting peaked with the biggest sporting event of the year, Super Bowl LVI.
Last week, US sports betting website, Sports Handle, reported that 80.1 million Super Bowl transactions were handled by betting clients in the US, of which 25% originated in New York.
But are these figures likely to be sustained over the next 12 months?
Maybe a degree of caution is required here. The numbers for betting in New York are being partly inflated by a rush of free bet and risk-free bet offers being used as promotional tools by operators battling aggressively for a share of the new market.
A browse through the offers currently available to new players signing up to New York-licensed sports books shows Draft Kings offering up to $1,050, Caesars up to $1,500, Points Bet up to $2,000 risk-free bets and Bet Rivers a $250 match bonus.
Experts predict that after an initial rush of new account sign ups and interest generated by the media over the opportunity to bet online finally, the market will settle in the autumn. Bet Rivers CEO, Richard Schwatz, said in an article in the New York Times that “you need around six months for the market to stabilize.”
In the meantime, two new operators, Bally Bet and Resorts World, should be live in New York very soon, and another feast of betting is on the horizon in the form of March Madness when the NCAA College Football and Men’s Basketball are due to start.
So, Should Ontario Expect Similar Numbers?
Operators preparing to sports betting websites and apps in Ontario when the market here goes live from 4th April will be looking to New York with envy right now.
But can Canada’s most populous province post figures anything like those described above this summer? Recent industry coverage suggests in the long term, Ontario could become North America’s biggest market, but in the short term, perhaps we should be more cautious.
Here are some useful stats for comparison.
In terms of population size Ontario has the upper hand. New York’s population is 8.4 million, whilst Ontario’s is 14.57 million, nearly twice as big. However, it is worth noting that New York is a wealthier state with a GDP per capita of 90,043 compared to 51,274 in Ontario.
Going into its first day of betting, the Empire State had licensed nine different top tier sportsbook operators. Ontario will likely lead with three, though more should follow soon afterwards.
Perhaps these figures reflect a general preparedness on the part of New York that is not matched yet by Ontario. Remember when New York went live already sports betting was legal in several other states including Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Both operators and gamblers had seen how successfully it worked in other states and were more than ready for some of the action.
Also, Ontario will be the first of Canada’s provinces to launch with legal sports betting online as others wait and watch to see what they do right, and what they do wrong. It is fair to say that Canada has not quite built up the same level of momentum that we see in the States right now and that will almost certainly be reflected in slower initial growth.
And finally, New York’s launch was well timed. With the Super Bowl coming just weeks after the first bets were taken and March Madness coming a month after that, there were high profile events to wrap marketing around. Unfortunately, delays in establishing a proper legal framework for Ontario meant that the opportunity to tie launch into these huge events was missed. Without matches like these to bet on, Ontario’s number are unlikely to eclipse those of New York.
The countdown to the new regulated gambling market in Ontario is on and New York’s recently reported numbers should excite everyone involved this side of the border. Over the next few weeks more will be revealed about who will be taking those first bets and how you can get a piece of the action. All things considered, though it may start slower, Ontario has the potential to be as big, or bigger even, thank New York’s market.
It’s game on!