Ontario sports betting enthusiasts have a plethora of options in the province’s shiny new open gaming market. But is the experience of signing up for an Ontario sportsbook and placing a bet as pleasant as a beachside hammock buffeted by a soft ocean breeze?
Or is the process more akin to the kind of slow torture that involves being locked in a room with Limp Bizkit on perpetual repeat at ear-splitting volume?
I put my sanity to the test.
Eight crazy sportsbooks
I devoted most of a day to signing up with eight Ontario online sportsbooks, making a deposit and successfully placing a bet.
Two were complete fails and four others could not geolocate me on the first try. However, I did end up placing sports bets at six Ontario books. The initial geolocation fail was frustrating enough to earn that part of my experiment a Limp Bizkit rating of four out of five Fred Dursts (Fun fact: The full photo, which was taken by Owen Sweeney of AP, has Durst wearing Limp Bizkit merch … naturally.).
. . .
Top 6 quirks of signing up for Ontario sportsbooks
Other than geolocation struggles, here are some quick quirks of my experience:
- Unibet Ontario threatened me.
- TheScore Bet — the only of these operators to work only through an app — required 17 attempts to read my driver’s license and nine more tries to identify my face.
- FanDuel allowed me to self-identify as a cannabis store owner, vending machine operator, money transmitter or the owner of automatic teller machines. However, not a journalist, writer, editor or internationally famous news hound. That shows you where my profession ranks in our new fake news multiverse of madness.
- The reset password function at Caesars sportsbook in Ontario did not work. In the process of trying to ID me, they emailed instructions on how to upload a photo of my driver’s license, a selfie, a copy of a utility bill, a pop-top from a 1972 can of Shasta and the equivalent of $10 in Swedish Krona (OK, I made up the last two.) to a location on the app that did not exist (That part I didn’t make up.). Not Smoove, emperor.
- Bet365 and PointsBet are oddly fixated on having people select an old-timey, gender-based salutation (Mr. or Mrs., etc.) even to access their products. They need to get with the times on this one.
- Oh, and PointsBet is now dead to me for reasons to be explained later. (Update May 13 – 5:15 p.m.: PointsBet is no longer dead to me. Details below)
I blinded them with science!
I am a scientist at heart — meaning that when I was 6, I liked to collect bugs in a jar with air holes punched into the metal top. Also, I once tried to see how many overturned garbage cans I could clear, Evel Knievel-style, on my bike with a homemade ramp (Answer: Two). As a true scientist, I knew the only fair way to test the books was to use the same conditions for each attempt to sign-up, deposit and place a bet.
I did the old person thing and started on a laptop, not my iPhone. The reason was simple: Entering reams of information is much easier on a computer than trying to type it all out on a phone since I lack the thumb dexterity of a teenage influencer with an energy drink addiction.
Admittedly, this was a failure on my part, earning myself two Limp Bizkits:
Pro tip: Do everything on the sports betting app, my friends.
Signing up for eight ‘great’ Ontario sportsbooks
I selected the following sportsbooks and accessed them in the following order:
- BetMGM Sportsbook Ontario
- BetRivers Sportsbook Ontario
- theScore Bet
I am not much of a sports bettor and had not used any of the operators’ products before. This test was for science, remember. I purposely waited into the sixth week of Ontario’s launch to give the operators a fair chance to fix any problems.
Note, I was using a brand new MacBook Pro and the latest version of Google Chrome with my location setting set to visible. I checked three times before starting. This is important given the geolocation problems I encountered. I planned to deposit $25 into each of the eight sportsbooks and place a small wager. I used the same Visa card for all but one of them (more on that in a second), and before I started, I ensured the balance was at zero.
An easy and intuitive process, for the most part
At no point was I going to contact customer service for any of the operators. I followed the same rules I used when I made bets on the Super Bowl through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s Proline (the only legal book in the province at that time). Revised: It’s important to note that customers should always attempt to solve problems by accessing customer service, but that wasn’t part of my experiment.
I was trying to see if the process was easy and intuitive without needing help. It actually was pretty easy and intuitive, for the most part.
Taking my money was easy, betting less so
In all, I invested 2 hours and 36 minutes trying to sign up for the 8 Ontario sportsbooks, deposit money and place a bet in each. Though, I gave up on two of them: Caesars and PointsBet. On average, it took 12 minutes to sign up and make a deposit for each of the sportsbooks and a further five minutes to download the app, log in and successfully wager.
Going from sign-up to betting in under 20 minutes is actually fairly impressive, considering the need to verify my identity and ensure I was in Ontario.
The province’s gaming regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, has fairly stringent anti-money laundering, geolocation and responsible gaming requirements. That’s fantastic. But, allegedly, all that has caused the most problems in getting customers signed up since the market launched on April 4.
So, in terms of the time investment, I give the experience an extremely pleasant: four oceanside hammocks:
. . .
All except PointsBet easily (and happily, I assume) took $25 via my Visa. PointsBet declined me twice — once on desktop and once through the app for reasons that are unfathomable, considering seven others had no problems with the same card. Remember: my balance was at zero to start the day and I only spent $75 before I got to them. Also, I double-checked the Visa information both on the website and through the app.
(May 13 update: PointsBet reached out to explain what happened. I thought it was pretty cool of them to do that without animosity. It was a friendly chat with CCO Nic Sulksy and senior director of communications Patrick Eichner. Here’s the story: Right before I tried to sign-up PointsBet updated some software and for about 24 hours a glitch caused some of its customers problems with depositing money. The issue has been resolved and I have now deposited money and successfully wagered with PointsBet).
Using my debit card at theScore Bet went exceptionally smoothly.
What’s with the geolocation problems in Ontario?
My first attempt with BetMGM quickly and easily allowed me to download GeoComply software. So, I was surprised four other sportsbooks failed to locate me properly (minus theScore Bet, which does not have a website, and PointsBet and Caesars because I never successfully registered with them).
That’s pretty poor, considering I am solidly within Ontario’s borders. And some bettors will, undoubtedly, prefer to do this via a website than through an app.
Unibet sent me the following nasty message:
“We have detected that you are attempting to wager from outside the province of Ontario. You should immediately cease and desist from attempting to wager from outside of Ontario. We have retained your user information and future attempts could result in an enforcement action.”
Threatening to report me to the authorities is pretty rich coming from a former grey-market operator with a long history of taking non-legal bets in Ontario. Glass house, guys, glass house. It was a turnoff, for sure, earning Unibet a solid three Limp Bizkits just for that alone:
Fortunately, the geolocation issue was resolved when I went to the next step and downloaded all the apps and logged in. Location accuracy improved via my iPhone, so I recommend doing all this from a sports betting app in the first place.
Ranking the Ontario sportsbooks: BetMGM is king
Ranking the experience, the best result was with BetMGM. The worst was with PointsBet and Caesars.
To be fair to Caesars, partly this was my fault. Not long after the market launched, I had downloaded the app just to check it out. I must have registered with them at that time, but don’t remember doing that. I certainly did not deposit any money. Since I registered initially through the app, I didn’t have my laptop-based password-saving software engaged and didn’t write down the password.
When I tried to register with Caesars the other day, of course, it said I already was. Multiple attempts to reset my password did not result in an email being sent to me (and, yes, I looked in all my spam folders, too). When I tried to register with a different email address, that failed, as well. I’m sure it can be resolved with customer service help, but, again, my parameters were not to seek out assistance.
Here are my final rankings:
1. BetMGM Ontario
- What I liked: The sign-up process was smooth and intuitive, including downloading and using the geolocation software.
- I didn’t like: You could not use symbols for the password, which is odd since that provides a higher level of security and is common with password generators like the one I use.
- What was odd: Nothing really, unless you’re upset to see golden Canadian boy Wayne Gretzky pop up on the app to welcome you.
- Final rating: Five hammocks
. . . .
2. BetRivers Ontario
- What I liked: Entering my address required simply inputing my postal code and the rest of my location details popped right up. Geolocating was done internally on the website instead of through separate software (too bad it decided I was out of province until I downloaded the app and it successfully located me).
- I didn’t like: I know these operators are harvesting information here, but I don’t see why BetRivers needs to know my gender.
- What was odd: Every screen mentioned BetRivers’ code until I got to the screen where I deposited money. I didn’t write it down since it seemed omnipresent. So, I had to open another tab to go back and find the code to enter it upon deposit.
- Final rating: Four hammocks
. . .
3. bet365 Ontario
- What I liked: It was a relatively smooth, yet unremarkable sign-up process. Bet365 has a lot of betting options.
- I didn’t like: Unlike all the other sportsbooks, bet365 requires you to enter a user name (not just your email address). Then it only lets you log in using the user name, so be sure to make a note of that wherever you save your password information.
- What was odd: Both a salutation and middle name are required, which isn’t needed elsewhere.
- Final rating: Three hammocks
4. FanDuel Ontario
- What I liked: FanDuel has the most ways to set limits on your gaming, which is great for not getting yourself in trouble. Friendly “Welcome to The Team” message upon registering and other generally fun messaging.
- I did not like: FanDuel seems to have a lot more layers to the sign-up process, which may be better for consumer protection, but was a little frustrating. Plus, FanDuel is also very picky on passwords. I made six attempts to get one to work, and all along, I was using a professional password generator.
- What was odd: Even once I downloaded the app, FanDuel was the only one that still had trouble geolocating me. It wasn’t until I changed the app setting to “always” locate me from “only while I’m using the app” that it worked. None of the other apps had to be set to “always.” Also, FanDuel allowed me to self-identify as a cannabis store owner, vending machine operator, money transmitter or the owner of automatic teller machines, but not a journalist, writer or editor.
- Final rating: Two hammocks
4. theScore Bet
- What I liked: Everything worked on the first try because it was all done through the app. That is at least a novel approach due to theScore tying it to its long-standing sports information app.
- I didn’t like: It took a little longer to complete the process because it was done through the app. Also, theScore asked for a photo of my driver’s license (none of the others did) and that felt like a privacy violation. Yes, I know this is also extra security, but it felt like too much to ask to give them money.
- What was odd: It took 17 attempts to read the front of my driver’s license and a further nine tries to identify my face.
- Final rating: Two hammocks
6. Unibet Ontario
- What I liked: It took the least amount of time to go from sign-up to wagering.
- I didn’t like: After taking my money I was threatened by a sportsbook with a long history of operating non-legally in Ontario. The auto search for my address did not work and I had to enter it all manually. Unibet is pretty blah overall.
- What was odd: After successfully registering, unlike other apps that offer you the chance to deposit, Unibet simply goes to a main gaming screen and one has to hunt to find where to deposit.
- Final rating: Two Limp Bizkits
6. PointsBet Ontario
- What I liked: What was to like? Perhaps it’s great. I have no idea. They wouldn’t take my money. In the end, perhaps that is something to like. (Revised note: I really liked that they reached out to explain the brief tech challenge they were having).
- I didn’t like: Having my credit card declined despite multiple attempts after it worked at all the other sportsbooks. (Revised: I have now successfully deposited $25 and placed a wager with PointsBet).
- What was odd: See above.
- Initial rating: Four Limp Bizkits
- REVISED rating: Two Limp Bizkits (due to handling the issue professionally and the fact the third attempt was pretty smooth)
8. Caesars Ontario
- What I liked: Not much. I couldn’t even get logged in.
- I didn’t like: The password reset email didn’t work. A further process to identify yourself on the app required way too much information. It felt like a huge privacy breach. And the instructional email gave inaccurate information as to where to upload that information, which is probably for the best.
- What was odd: The whole experience was kind of odd and unsatisfying. Though, I’m sure customer service could have been helpful.
- Final rating: Three Limp Bizkits
What about my bets?
As for my bets, let’s not talk too much about those.
I already lost the two small ones I placed on last night’s Leafs game.
Though, if the Detroit Lions win the next Super Bowl, bet365 owes me $1,135.
In other words, kiss that $10 goodbye.