TORONTO — Over three in 10 Ontario residents are betting on sports at least once a week and their activity of choice is the NBA.
Those are some of the findings of a recent survey of Ontario residents conducted by OntarioBets.com, a resource site that provides research and reviews of sportsbooks and online casinos in the province. Single-game sports betting has been legal in Canada since last summer but opened fully in Ontario on April 4.
Thirty-five per cent of Ontarians surveyed said they bet on sports at least once a week while 39 per cent responded they don't at all. Exactly one in four wagers three or more times daily and 48 per cent consider themselves moderate bettors as opposed to expert or professional.
Max Bichsel, the vice-president of OntarioBets.com, said the 35 per cent participation level was expected.
"I think it's on par," he said. "I'd say three to five (out of 10) is generally average, which is what we see more holistically.
"I think the unique part about Canada, in general, and more specifically, Ontario, is before regulated sports betting and regulated online casinos there was a grey market that was available … it already existed whereas in a state like New York nothing did. I think that's why you've seen a fairly muted acceptance of sports betting because it didn't require acceptance, it was already occurring within the bounds of the province."
The number of respondents, their gender or demographics, weren't immediately available.
The NBA was the top choice of 28 per cent of respondents. The NHL was next (22 per cent), followed by the NFL (13 per cent), major league baseball (eight per cent), other (four per cent), English Premier League (three per cent) and CFL (one per cent).
Again, Bichsel wasn't overly surprised given Toronto captured the '19 NBA title.
"Winning an NBA final kinds of puts some highlight on that," he said. "And whenever a franchise has a really strong team, you tend to see some of that.
"But the NHL is still very important, not only in Ontario but the rest of the country as well."
And although the Toronto Maple Leafs are out of the NHL playoffs, Bichsel expects hockey to continue to holds its own in the Ontario market through to the Stanley Cup final.
"You have the Oilers and Flames still in the mix and able to be wagered upon even though they're not in Ontario," he said. "Even though the Leafs are out, the general fandom in Ontario, just as hockey fans, will continue to watch and drive some participation."
Not surprisingly, British company Bet365 — one of the world's biggest online operators — was the top betting preference at 18 per cent, just ahead of American-based BetMGM (17 per cent). Rounding out the top five were FanDuel (11 per cent), Caesars Sportsbook (eight per cent) and PointsBet (seven per cent).
Bichsel said Ontarians' familiarity with Bet365 before the market opened fully in the province accounts for its positioning in the survey.
"If you had a cable provider, just because there's new cable providers in the market doesn't necessarily mean you're going to move," he said. "You already have a familiarity with Bet365 … you've never had an issue, you enjoy their customer service.
"It's more peace of mind and comfortability."
But sportsbooks outside the top five combined to make up 40 per cent of preferred brands.
One in four respondents cited moneyline bets as their favourite. Next were point spread (15 per cent), over/under (13 per cent), live betting (12 per cent) and parlay and future bets (both five per cent).
Approximately 70 per cent of those surveyed claimed to have won at least $1 on a bet. Eighteen per cent said they'd won between $51 and $100 on a single bet while 17 per cent put their winnings between $1 and $25.
Only five per cent said they'd won $1,000 or more on a bet.
On Wednesday, DraftKings Inc. became the 18th gaming company operating in Ontario. Bichsel expects that number to climb.
"I'm expecting significantly more, probably double that, at least," he said. "It does take quite a while to go through the appropriate testing and making sure you have payment methods people want, withdrawal methods, that you can properly run a business and your site can be maintained properly and grow at an exponential rate.
"By the end of the year, we may see 40 or 50 operators. But I think it's way better to do things appropriately and correctly because that first rush of new customers is so valuable that if you irritate them or make things difficult, you may lose them forever."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press