FanDuel’s Dale Hooper Thrilled With Ontario Start, But Views It Like A Marathon

Written By Dave Briggs on May 5, 2022 - Last Updated on May 25, 2022
fanduel ontario launch hooper interview

Considering not all Ontario online sportsbook and casino operators started from the same starting line, FanDuel’s Dale Hooper said he was thrilled where his company is in the race.

One month after the online market launched on April 4, the GM for FanDuel Canada said there were hiccups, to be sure.

But, he’s happy to be in the top three in terms of app downloads and time spent on the app. Various reports place FanDuel third in both categories. Neck-and-neck for the top spot is long-time grey market operator bet365 and theScore Bet, which is connected to the veteran Canadian media company theScore.

FanDuel Sportsbook is entirely new to the Ontario sports betting market. Hooper (pictured) said:

“A few of our competitors have been (in Ontario) for years. Whether they’ve been legally working in the market or they just have an app install base of 3 million people. It’s a very different game when you’re starting from a standing start. But, we’re happy about (FanDuel’s number). I think one of the things for us when you talk about time spent on the app … is just our approach to the market.

“We’re proud we’re the No. 1 sports app in America, but we came here and did things that are locally relevant and are having some fun with it, whether it be our Canadian specials on soccer or our Raptors specials or our Leafs specials or our odds boosts. I think what we wanted is it’s fun and safe. Whether you bet on it, or not, being an odds boost on the Raptors to score one point, people are saying, ‘That’s really fun.’”

Hooper on challenge of 30+ competitors

With 16 operators already taking live bets in Ontario and more than double that number expected to be live very soon, the province is unlike most gaming markets.

Hooper said FanDuel’s approach to competition is to focus on its customers and not turn a marathon into a sprint:

“We think that, at the end of the day, it is all about your customer and customer experience. It’s about demonstrating that we’re here for the long-term and responsible gaming is at our core.

“One of the things for us that we did is we only advertised a responsible gaming ad for the first five days of being in the market. We want to build trust. We think that if you build trust and you have a safe (product) and people feel there’s some fun there … that, in the long term, the folks will come and be sticky and stay with us because they will enjoy the experience.

“If you’re a sports bettor, you’re going to try three, four or five (books), but eventually, you’re going to settle down. And, if we get to a place where people, when they come into the market (and hear that there’s safety and there’s fun, then we’ll win.

“So, we’re not trying to be No. 1 tomorrow. We’re trying to be No. 1 when it matters. There’s people that have been here before us and we’ve got to win them over.”

Thoughts on Ontario’s ad rules

Hooper said he is supportive of Ontario’s strict advertising rules that prohibit operators from the promotion of inducements, bonuses and credits. Those kinds of marketing campaigns are prevalent in US gaming jurisdictions.

Ontario’s regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), has already issued fines totaling $78,000 to BetMGM and PointsBet Canada for allegedly violating those rules.

Hooper’s take on the ad rules:

“I think our job as an operator and part of the community is to make sure we create an environment that people think is safe. As well, I think it’s also important that there’s consistency in the rules and consistency in how people are communicating their products. I think the rules here are fine. It puts a premium on delivering fun, entertaining, having a great product proposition, building trust around how you approach the market.

“I applaud the AGCO for making sure there’s a consistency in approach. I think that’s important. If there’s consistency in approach and people are expected to adhere to it, I think it makes for a level playing field for everyone. The most important thing is the grey market. As an Ontarian and as a consumer, we need people to move over to the legalized market. That’s where it becomes safe, but also there’s tax revenue there.

“I think the broadcasters have been quite responsible, frankly. I know there’s a lot of ads, but I think they’ve been responsible in the way that they approach the grey market. They’re not on air right now. I really think that’s important. If you’re going to get to the edge at some point someone has to decide where the line is.”

What about FanDuel daily fantasy sports?

While FanDuel did not take sports bets in Ontario prior to launch, it was an active player in the daily fantasy sports realm in the province.

The company decided to stop offering DFS in Ontario just prior to April 4 because AGCO now classifies DFS as sports betting. As such, Ontario only allows bets within Ontario. DFS thrives on players being able to participate against players in many jurisdictions to make the pool sizeable enough to be attractive.

Hooper said the Ontario-only element of DFS does not make it attractive enough to offer at this time. But, he didn’t rule out it returning to Ontario players in the future if the regulator can be convinced to allow players to participate against people from outside the province. He said:

“We just need to have an environment where Ontario fantasy players actually are going to have a game they want to play.

“From what I can understand, the regulators have been very open with us in terms of having discussions with us in terms of, ‘What is this going to take and how does this work?’ The right conversations are happening for fantasy players. I think people should know that. As things move on we’ll see how it will work. First off, the environment has to be right… We could run it today, but I don’t think anyone would want to play.”

Great partnerships with TSN and MLSE

While FanDuel is a US company in a Canadian market, it has made inroads by signing deals with national sports broadcaster TSN and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The MLSE owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Argos, Marlies and FC soccer club.

FanDuel is the “official sports betting partner” of MLSE.

The operator also has a multi-year deal with TSN to integrate with the broadcaster across platforms, including:

  • In-game broadcasts
  • Digital marketing
  • Mobile apps
  • Co-branding opportunities

“It’s interesting to see how everyone is taking their approach to the market,” Hooper said. “How do you be Canadian? I think you just need to be relevant to Canadians. I don’t think you need to be Canadian.”

Photo by Dreamstime.com
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Written by
Dave Briggs

Before joining PlayOntario, Dave spent more than 25 years as a writer and editor, mainly covering horse racing in Canada. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Western University and was a 2018 inductee into the Communicators' Corner of the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Beyond a deep passion for family and music, Dave has a mostly-tragic, life-long love of Detroit sports teams. He lives in Port Stanley, Ontario with his wife and their beloved Vizsla named California.

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