Legal online sportsbooks will eventually be making their way to Ontario. When it happens, it will amount to a new landscape for Canadian sports bettors. For years, the only option has been Ontario Lottery and Gaming’s Pro-Line and its limited offerings that revolve around parlay betting.
While parlays can be entertaining and have their place, single-game betting opens the door to many more possibilities. You will be able to focus on the events and bets you prefer without being limited to what’s on the Pro-Line menu. By comparison, sportsbooks offer a host of potential wagers.
Ontario appears as if it will be a fantastic market for legal single-game sports betting. Leading up to that, though, it’s a perfect time to take a look at what you need to know. Join us for a detailed look at Ontario sports betting.
Ontario sports betting timeline
There have been attempts to make single-game wagering legal in Canada through the years, but substantive progress hasn’t happened until recently. Here’s a quick look at the journey to date.
- 1985: Canadian provinces receive permission to administer legal forms of gambling. Single-game sports betting is not approved, but parlay-style wagering is legal per an update to the Criminal Code.
- October 1992: Pro-Line Stadium founded. Parlay betting debuts at retail locations.
- April 2000: Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. forms via a merger of the Ontario Lottery Corp. and Ontario Casino Corp.
- September 2004: OLGC adds picks, props and pools to its Pro-Line menu.
- September 2011: Lawmakers introduce Bill C-290, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code — Sports Betting, but it fails to advance past the Senate.
- September 2017: OLGC announces release of Pro-Line app.
- February 2020: Another attempt to amend the criminal code with the introduction of Bill C-218.
- November 2020: Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, enters the final passage stage.
- February 2021: House of Commons passes Bill C-218.
While there’s still work to be done, the hope is that lawmakers will sort things out in the coming months. Right now, the most optimistic timeline calls for single-game wagering to debut before the start of the NFL season in September 2021.
What would an Ontario sports betting market look like?
As discussions have continued in the Canadian Parliament about single-game wagering, details on the overall framework have started to come to light. It’s all part of an ongoing push to bring legal online gambling to the province. Part of the November 2020 budget called for online gambling to fall under the purview of a newly established branch of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Also addressed were key objectives as the legislative process continues.
- Consumer choice: Fair competition in the regulated market with enhanced consumer choices and responsiveness to customer preferences.
- Consumer protection: Ensure safe and responsible play, game integrity, compliance by operators with applicable laws and prevention of underage gambling.
- Legal market growth and provincial returns: Leverage private sector expertise to capture revenues that are flowing elsewhere. Reinvest new revenues in a manner that will benefit the province.
- Reduce red tape: Cut down the regulatory burden on businesses to help speed up market access while encouraging innovation.
Also in November 2020, Bill C-13, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, was introduced. If it passes, it would end the prohibition on single event sports betting. Canadians would have many more markets and bet types at their disposal as a result. The passage is a crucial part of Ontario’s overall approach to online gambling.
Potential Ontario online sportsbooks
According to the Canadian Gaming Association, Canadians spend a staggering $14 billion annually on offshore websites and other illegal means of gambling. As the push for single-game betting continues, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Ontario single-game sports betting market could be potentially massive.
Plenty of questions remain, though, including how many sportsbooks will be able to set up shop in the province. However, we do know that many of the industry’s top names are more than interested. Here are some of the most likely contenders to launch online sportsbooks in Ontario.
- DraftKings: A massive presence in the US and an eye toward growth make DraftKings a natural for Canada. The company has also been rumoured to have designs on acquiring Canadian company theScore for an additional leg up.
- BetMGM: BetMGM has its sights set on being a market leader, so it’s safe to say that Canada is on the to-do list. The company has already made serious strides in several legal states in the US.
- William Hill: UK-based William Hill has been a longtime powerhouse across the pond, and the company has managed to set up a strong foothold in the US, as well. Now an attempt to expand across the border is increasingly likely.
- FanDuel: The current leader in the US in terms of overall volume, FanDuel will almost assuredly throw its hat into the ring. Already well-known as a daily fantasy sports company, FanDuel has leveraged that reach into sports betting, as well.
- PointsBet: Australia-based PointsBet launched in the US in January 2019. The company has continued to grow while inking key deals in a number of markets and across the nation. Therefore you can likely expect the same approach as it eyes up the Canadian market.
- Caesars: The Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino makes for a natural spot for a retail sportsbook. The Caesars brand name is also big in the US online and mobile betting space, so a launch in Canada certainly seems possible.
- Hard Rock: A Hard Rock Hotel is in the works at the site of a former Kellogg’s factory in London. The company operates casinos in select locales and has an online presence in the US. A full sportsbook launch and rollout in Canada wouldn’t be surprising.
- Bet365: We’ll consider this one a wild card as it’s currently operating in Canada without a license. That said, Bet365 is a big name across the globe, so a full legal entry into the market could be among its long-range plans.
So what will these sportsbooks bring to the table that isn’t already available at Pro-Line? While we have to wait and see how the market will officially shake out, here’s a few things to expect:
- Range of single-game betting options as opposed to a limited menu of parlay choices.
- Clear-cut odds and lines.
- Available online and via app.
- Enticing sign-up offers for new users.
- Regular ongoing promotions.
Betting on an app
Once sports betting apps go live in Ontario, you’ll have much more flexibility with wagering. The days of taking a trek to the local convenience store or visiting the OLGC website will be over. You’ll be able to log in on the app whenever and wherever you like. Here are the steps you’ll need to take once sportsbooks launch:
- Head to a legal sportsbook’s registration page and follow the prompts to sign up.
- Download the app for your device from the sportsbook website if you haven’t done so already.
- Get ready to bet.
It’s a quick and painless process that you can complete in minutes. You’ll have to provide some basic information such as your name and date of birth, but nothing out of the ordinary. After your account is all set, you’ll be able to complete all of the same functions as you would at a retail sportsbook, including placing bets and funding your account.
Sportsbook apps also open the doors to live betting, which are wagers you can place in real time as the action plays out. You’ll see new bets based on what’s happening, and you can jump in whenever a bet you like pops up. Sports betting apps can be fantastic companions as you enjoy the game.
Current legal sports betting in Ontario
For the time being, legal sports betting is limited to Pro-Line, which the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. runs and which you can find online and at retail lottery locations in the province. There are four ways to play, but each of them requires you to make multiple selections as opposed to just focusing on a single outcome. Here are the details:
- Pro-Line: For this one, you make three to six selections from the listed choices, which are a mix of the major team-based sports with options for the margin of victory. The minimum wager is $2 while the maximum is $100. In order to win, you must be right on all of your selections.
- Pools: For the pools game, there are cards for slates of available games. You have to make a pick for all of the choices listed on the card, which could range from just a few to 10 or more. The cost per card is $5. When the games are final, the player or players with the most correct selections wins the pool.
- Point spreads: The point spread option is also available for full slates of games. You’ll see a spread for each contest. You get to pick the favourite minus the spread or the underdog plus the spread, and you have to be right on all your choices. You have to make a minimum of two picks with a maximum limit of 12 picks at wager amounts from $2 to $100.
- Props: This option is also available with cards for each sport. You’ll find a range of prop choices involving team or player performances and game instances. You can make between three and six selections per card. Wagers can range from $2 to $100, with payouts based on the odds for selected props.
Sports you can bet on using an app
Legal books offer a range of sports for betting. Here are some of the most popular options:
For all of the above, you’ll be able to place single-game wagers for each available event on the docket. There are multiple ways to bet on each sport, all of which we’ll cover in a bit. Beyond the major sports, you’ll also find sports such as soccer, golf, tennis and UFC on the menu, as well as a range of smaller sports. In short, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
Introduction to sports betting odds and shopping for lines
Once single-game betting becomes available, the advantages will quickly become apparent. Among the items at the top of the list is clear-cut odds and lines for each individual contest as opposed to just multiple-choice wagers.
Additionally, you’ll be able to shop around and compare the prices at multiple sportsbooks as you hunt for the best possible returns. The odds will also vary by bet, so it’s important to have an understanding of how it all works. Here are the main ones to know:
Types of bets
While there are plenty of options to explore at legal sportsbooks, the biggest generators of volume are pregame wagers for the major sports leagues. On a daily basis, you’ll find odds such as the following:
- Montreal Canadiens +130 +1.5 (-140) O 5.5 (-110)
- Toronto Maple Leafs -160 -1.5 (+120) U 5.5 (-110)
Next to the Canadiens and Leafs are the numbers for three main bets: moneyline, puck line and total.
- Moneylines: Just choose which side you think will win from the favourite (negative odds) or underdog (positive odds).
- Puck lines: The side you pick has to cover the puck line.
- Totals: Bet over or under on the estimated number of total goals scored in the game.
Moneylines and totals are available for all of the major team-based sports. The puck line name, meanwhile, is exclusive to hockey betting, but there are variations of this bet in other sports. For example, it’s the point spread in the NFL and NBA, while MLB calls it a run line. Beyond those three wagers, here are some others you’ll come across:
- Props: Additional side bets on games and events, many of which revolve around the accomplishments of individual players.
- Futures: A bet on a season-long outcome, such as the winner of the next Stanley Cup or Super Bowl.
- Live betting: Bet in real time as the game plays out with updated odds and new offerings.
- Parlays: A familiar option for Ontarians, these are wagers with multiple selections, and you have to be right on all of them to win.
As your experience level grows, you can begin to explore more exotic wagers such as teasers, pleasers and round robins. The list of available options is really deep, so there’s a good chance that you’ll find something that works for your wagering style.
Most likely candidates for sponsorships and deals
In the US, a growing trend is for sports leagues and teams to sign sponsorship deals with sports betting companies. There are also plans in the works for retail sportsbooks at a handful of pro arenas and stadiums. As legal sports betting makes its way into Ontario, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that trend follow.
In fact, we’ve already seen Canadian sports franchises partner with other casino and gambling companies. The Ottawa Senators have linked with Rideau Carleton Casino, the future home of Hard Rock Casino Ottawa, as an official casino sponsor. Previously, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a deal in place with PokerStars.
There’s nothing current to report for the Toronto Blue Jays or Raptors, but that could change in the future. Looking ahead, the home sites of the province’s main pro teams could make sense for retail sportsbooks.
- Scotiabank Arena
- Home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors
- Address: 40 Bay St., Toronto
- Owner: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
- Rogers Centre
- Home of the Toronto Blue Jays
- Address: 1 Blue Jays Way, Toronto
- Owner: Rogers Communications
- Canadian Tire Centre
- Home of the Ottawa Senators
- Address: 1000 Palladium Drive, Ottawa
- Owner: Capital Sports Properties Inc.
Which casinos could open retail sportsbooks?
There are plenty of casinos across Ontario. Many are partnered with the OLGC, while First Nations partners operate a few. Some of the locations already have sports lounge-type venues onsite, so a pivot to a retail sportsbook could happen quickly. Which casinos are most likely to do so? Here are some of the top candidates:
Three casinos operate under the Elements brand name in the southwest section of the province. All three properties offer slots. Brantford and Flamboro also have table games, while there’s a poker room at the former.
- Elements Casino Brantford: 40 Icomm Drive, Brantford
- Elements Casino Flamboro: 967 Ontario Highway 5, Dundas
- Elements Casino Grand River: 7445 Wellington County Road 21, Elora
A larger brand with several locations across Ontario, Gateway Casinos also offer dining options, slots at all properties and table games at several. A retail sportsbook could be a natural fit.
- Gateways Casinos Innisfil: 7485 Fifth Side Road, Innisfil
- Gateways Casinos Sarnia: 1730 London Line, Sarnia
- Gateways Casinos London: 900 King St., London
- Gateways Casinos Woodstock: 851 Nellis St., Woodstock
- Gateways Casinos Clinton: 47 Beech St., Clinton
- Gateways Casinos Thunder Bay: 50 Cumberland St., South Thunder Bay
- Gateways Casinos Sudbury: 400 Bonin Road, Chelmsford
- Gateways Casinos Sault Ste. Marie: 30 Bay St., Sault Ste. Marie
To the east is the popular Shorelines Casino brand. There are four properties under the umbrella, one of which is just a destination for slots while the others also have table games. There are onsite dining options at all four venues.
- Shorelines Slots at Kawartha Downs: 1382 County Road 28, Fraserville
- Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands: 380 Highway 2, Gananoque
- Shorelines Casino Peterborough: 1400 Crawford Drive, Peterborough
- Shorelines Casino Belleville: 380 Bell Blvd., Belleville
Casino Niagara is part of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, an entity with several gambling venues in the US. Guests will find a range of casino and dining options.
Address: 5705 Falls Ave., Niagara Falls
Casino Rama Resort
A hotel and spa, a slew of dining options, and a wide assortment of games are available at Casino Rama. It’s located on the lands of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
Address: 5899 Rama Road, Rama
One of the most iconic names in the physical casino space has a location in Windsor. Caesars Windsor has a hotel, gambling and several dining options.
Address: 377 Riverside Drive East, Windsor
Another member of the Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment family, Fallsview is also a popular destination in the Niagara region. Dining, gambling and entertainment options are among the highlights for visitors.
Address: 6380 Fallsview Blvd., Niagara Falls
Do I have to pay taxes on winnings from sports betting?
Across the border in the US, people have to pay taxes on sports betting winnings. Canadians do not. While consumers get a break, though, sportsbooks do have to pay taxes.
Per an existing agreement between various municipalities and the OLGC, the first $65 million earned on slots is taxed at a rate of 5.25%. Revenue amounts greater than that are subject to a sliding scale. Then for table games, it’s 4% of the total revenue. The funds are designated to go back to the host communities.
For sports betting, Ontario is similarly considering an agreement with private sportsbooks. For instance, books could set up shop within the regulatory framework in exchange for a share of revenue. The rate could be a fixed amount, but different variables could also shift things.
Additionally, the OLGC has an existing arrangement in place with Ontario First Nations. It distributes 1.7% of revenue to Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership. These funds then go to benefit certain areas. It’s unclear exactly what will happen with sports betting, but revenue for OFN is expected to increase as additional gambling options roll out.