Sarah Robertson predicts the province will be a “unique” and fierce “battleground” when the online sports betting market in Ontario springs wide open on April 4.
In an interview with PlayOntario, the Kambi Group senior vice president of sales said it will be interesting to see how the big brands “that have done well in the US via big marketing spends” fare in Ontario.
“I think with the consumer having so much choice it comes down to product, it comes down to having a very localized and compelling offering,” said Robertson, a New Brunswick native based out of Kambi’s UK office. “Canadians are not the same consumers as US consumers. I think that’s going to be something that everyone will have to learn how to navigate and figure out what works for that demographic and for the Ontario consumers.”
Specifically, Robertson said she believes Kambi’s newest partner, NorthStar Gaming, is well-positioned to make a dent in the market.
NorthStar is well-positioned in Canadian market
On Feb. 1, Kambi, a leading sports betting technology supplier, announced it would provide the tech for NorthStar’s sports betting operation. Last month, NorthStar announced it had signed with Playtech to handle its online casino infrastructure. And in 2021, NorthStar signed a deal with Torstar Corporation, best known as the parent company of Canada’s second-largest circulation newspaper, The Toronto Star.
“(NorthStar has) a really interesting background with The Toronto Star. And I think they’ve got a really strong team in place,” Robertson said. “So, it’s going to be a really interesting combination of a great, varied, well-positioned team and then a lot of marketing potential with the readership and viewership of The Toronto Star.”
Kambi has partnerships with a handful of other sports betting brands and will work with others in Ontario. But the partnerships NorthStar has forged definitely are putting it on the map.
Strong marriage between media and sports betting?
Robertson said the marriage of media and sports betting is a growing trend in North America.
“We’re seeing it happen across North America more so than ever before … Obviously, (The Star has a) readership and viewership that are sports enthusiasts. So, it makes a lot of sense from building up a database. So, I think it will be really interesting to see what (NorthStar does) in the space,” Robertson told PlayOntario.
“We really think that the NorthStar group will be what we would call a local hero or a local standout in the market because they have this nice niche positioning.”
And Robertson believes NorthStar will be ready to launch at least sports betting on April 4.
“We’re anticipating being live from day one with (NorthStar). We’re really working as diligently as we can on getting ready for the market to open,” she said.
Battle of Ontario
Robertson said she couldn’t guess how many sports betting companies would battle it out in Ontario. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, so far, has mentioned some 30 companies have applied.
“I have no idea, to be honest. I’m assuming it’s going to be pretty expansive. But I guess that’s down to who is applying for licensing and how the AGCO looks at the licensing we’re seeing. Yes, it’s (an) open (market), but there’s still a high level of standards to meet those requirements. So, it’s still a matter of wait and see.
“Most US markets, thus far, haven’t been fully open like this. Some are, but not all, and not all have enabled both sports betting and iCasino at the same time, which is really interesting.
“We’re going to see probably all of the big US operators and, potentially, some European operators coming into the space. So, it will definitely be competitive. I think with a market like that it will come down to product, and it will come down to strategy. I think Kambi combined with NorthStar will have something really special in place.”
Hockey is key
Robertson said she expects betting on hockey will be particularly popular in Ontario. If so, she believes Kambi — founded in Sweden in 2010 — has an edge in the crowded market.
“From a Kambi perspective, we really have what we think to be a strong product for Canadian consumers,” Robertson said. “Being (a) Scandinavian (company), we obviously have a heritage of hockey. So, we have a really outstanding hockey product, and that’s for pre-match as well as in-play. But also across what we call bet builder or game parlay builder. So, lots of consumers can pick and choose which bets they want to combine across our hockey offering, from player props to main lines.”