Single-Game Betting vs. Parlay Betting

For sports bettors in Ontario, the differences between parlay betting and single-game wagering is a very familiar topic. The former has been made available via Ontario Lottery and Gaming for some time now, while the latter is on track to be introduced in a completely legal and safe fashion in Canada.

For those new to the game, it’s important to understand the distinction and why the introduction of single-game betting will be such a big deal. In short, it’s really going to shake things up for sports bettors. Doors will open to an abundance of possibilities.

The sports betting laws in Canada are on a rapid path toward change, so it’s a perfect time to get up to speed. Here’s a full breakdown of the major differences between these two vastly different styles of betting.

Canada’s move to regulate single-event betting

Sports betting has technically been legal in Canada since the 1980s, albeit with strict limitations. Wagering was limited to parlay-style games in which users must make multiple selections as opposed to betting on a single event.

During the following decade, the provincial lottery system began unveiling options, including the Pro-Line games from OLG. The parlay games have remained the only legal options for bettors since. But there have been several attempts to tweak the law to permit single-game wagering. Previously, those fell flat.

Fast forward to 2020, and notable progress finally occurred. Bill C-218 gained traction as a private member bill and continued to pick up steam. The House of Commons gave its rubber stamp the following year. It has since advanced to the Canadian Senate for approval. Optimistically, resolution could finally be reached by the summer of 2021.

What is single-game betting?

Single-game betting refers to wagering on individual contests. For Ontarians, the only option for legal wagering over the past few decades has been the Pro-Line games offered by OLG. To play, users must make multiple choices from the listed options and be right on all choices to win.

For single-game betting in Ontario, there’s much more control in the hands of individual users. They can pick the games and events they want to wager on, have different options on how to bet and even shop around and compare the odds from multiple shops in a quest to find the best prices and potential returns.

Let’s say there’s an NHL game on tap between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. You’ll find options for the contest on the various Pro-Line parlay games, but it’ll pale in comparison to all of the ways you can bet with single-game wagering.

  • Moneyline
  • Goal line
  • Totals
  • Props
  • Live betting

Note that parlays are also available at single-game operator. You can even look ahead to an entire season by placing some futures wagers. From a bottom-line perspective, there are just more options in the world of single-game betting.

How does parlay betting work?

Parlay betting games have been available through the provincial lottery system since the 1990s. For example, Pro-Line games from Ontario Lottery and Gaming are available at select retail outlets and online. The games are based on cards of selections for which users have to make multiple choices.

In order to have a chance to win, players need to be correct on all of their selections, which is a pretty daunting task to say the least. As mentioned, parlays are also available for betting at sportsbooks. However, users have more control over what they want to wager on. As opposed to making picks off a card, bettors can simply include the wagers they like best.

For the OLG games, there are four main ways to play.

  • Pro-Line: Users pick three to six outcomes from the available contests. Wagering amounts range from $2 to $100.
  • Pools: Players must pick a winner from all choices listed on the card. Bets are set at $5 for a single play, but users can box selections at price points of $10-$80.
  • Point spread: Bettors make two to 12 selections from the available choices against the spread at amounts ranging from $2 to $100.
  • Props: Users choose three to six of the available prop-style wagers on the card. Bets range from a minimum of $2 to a maximum of $100.

At sportsbooks, a parlay can contain as few as two choices or more than 10. Please note that operators cap the limits on the total amount of selections you can make, but you can always consult the house rules for specifics. Additionally, you’re not limited to a range of selections, but rather a wide range of options on the wagering menu. For example:

  • Two-team NHL moneyline parlay
  • Three-team CFL point spread parlay
  • Four-team NBA totals parlay
  • Five NFL parlay wagers

You can also mix and match within reason, such as a player prop and the moneyline winner of an NHL game. If a combination isn’t permitted, then you’ll receive a notification on the betting slip. Additionally, wagering amounts aren’t capped at $100 at sportsbooks, so you can go up or down in stakes as you see fit.

Last but not least, payout amounts at sportsbooks will be based on the actual odds for your parlay wager. Meanwhile, Pro-Line payouts are based on the total amount of funds in the pool with OLG keeping a portion of the tally. As a quick example, a winning four-leg $100 parlay at a sportsbook with total odds of +550 would return a profit of $550

Why single-game betting changes everything

The phrase “game-changer” has been bandied about quite often as legal single-game betting inches closer toward reality in Canada. So exactly how is the landscape about to be altered? Here’s a look at five facets poised to change dramatically.

  • A competitive marketplace: Ontarians looking to legally bet on sports have had a lone option for the last several decades. Once the single-game betting market opens, lots of different operators will get involved. That will lead to competition for consumer dollars, which translates into sportsbooks having to be at the top of their game.
  • Available markets and bet types: While Pro-Line has at least been something for sports bettors to do, the options are rather limited. Players are restricted to the listed choices and the parameters of the available games. It’s a different story with sportsbooks: users can explore a much larger array of markets and bet types.
  • Betting odds and market action: Efficient sports betting markets respond to betting action. That means the odds and lines will adjust from the initial release up until game time. For a parlay card game, the listed odds are the first and last word. Users will also be able to shop around to compare prices and find better value opportunities.
  • Choice belongs to the user: Sports bettors will have more control over what they wager on, as well as how and when they do so. There’s just no overstating the significance of this development. For a quick example, as opposed to making multiple choices on a parlay game and hoping for the best, users can focus on the opportunities they find most appealing.
  • Online and mobile betting experience: The legal sports betting industry is booming in the United States. Now, many of the top operators have their sights set on entering Ontario. The sportsbook heavyweights make substantial investments in technology, and it shows in some absolutely stellar online and mobile platforms.

These are just a few of the reasons why single-game wagering will be such a big deal for Canadian bettors. There’s going to be a seismic shift in how we bet on sports in the Great White North. The ride should be a whole lot of fun.

Which sports are most affected by single-game betting?

As experienced Pro-Line players know, there’s a decent amount of sports covered in the parlay games. If you want to bet on the major team-based sports, you’ll find options. However, the same can’t be said for the major individual competitions. Here are three new areas in which you’ll be able to get in on the action.

  • Golf: You can bet on the winners of PGA tournaments and other events. There are plenty of other ways to wager as well, including head-to-head and group betting.
  • Tennis: Wager whenever the ATP or WTA makes a tour stop. This goes for the Grand Slams and smaller tourneys, in several different ways, including winners and matches.
  • UFC: Whenever there’s a UFC card on tap, you’ll be able to wager on the fights. Try the  outright winner and method of victory markets.

These are just a few growth areas. A top sportsbook will offer an impressive menu—from the mainstream to the obscure. Get ready to look around.

In addition, expect big changes in how you bet on the top sports. For example, you no longer have to bet on multiple CFL games or NHL games—unless you want to, of course. Pick the contests you like best!

While change can sometimes be intimidating, this evolution is a very positive development. Bettors will have more control in almost every sense with legal single-game betting.

Should you still make parlay bets? 

Parlay bets are high-risk, high-reward wagers. In order to win, you have to be right on all of your selections. While the payouts can be great if you manage to do so, it can be really tough to build up consistency with this style of wagering.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for parlay betting in your overall approach to wagering on sports. If you learn to keep your expectations in check and budget accordingly, parlays can be a great source of entertainment.

For example, let’s say that a weekly CFL slate is upcoming with the standard four games. After researching, you walk away feeling good about one moneyline and one spread bet. These will serve as your main wagers for the week.

You can kick things up a notch by tying together all four of the games into a single bet in a quest for greater returns. For budgeting purposes, if your range is set at $50 or $100 for your main bets, make your parlay just a fraction of that. Think $5 or $10.

If you win the parlay, you’ll be in line for a nice return, but when you lose, it won’t break the bank, especially if you happen to do well with your main wagers. This is a simple example of how parlays can be worked into an overall strategy. But that doesn’t mean it will suit everyone.

Whether it’s a parlay or any other kind of wager, it ultimately comes down to your risk tolerance and comfort level with the bet. Blindly betting on parlays in hopes of a good score is a recipe for disaster. Yet a measured approach can work in the right circumstances.