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Canada Sports Betting survey suggests many in Ontario cool to sports wagering

TORONTO — Over three months after the full launch of Ontario's sports-betting industry, a survey conducted by Canada Sports Betting suggests a majority of people in the province haven't taken to wagering on athletic events.
The city skyline appears over the center field wall before a baseball game between the Pirates and the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Pittsburgh. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Keith Srakocic

TORONTO — Over three months after the full launch of Ontario's sports-betting industry, a survey conducted by Canada Sports Betting suggests a majority of people in the province haven't taken to wagering on athletic events.

Canada Sports Betting surveyed 1,222 people between July 19-20 regarding their views on the regulated sports-betting market. It came after the industry in Ontario fully launched April 4 with 619 of the respondents (51 per cent) being male and the remaining 603 (49 per cent) being female.

When asked if they were aware of Ontario's full launch, 55 per cent replied they weren't. Of respondents indicating they were interested in sports betting, 55.5 per cent said they hadn't wagered on sports since it became legal to do so. Ten per cent of that group stated they wager monthly while 8.7 per cent said daily.

What's more, 46.9 per cent said they're not interested at all in online sports betting with another 13.9 per cent admitting to not being very interested. Only 13.8 per cent said they were very interested.

"I think that (55.5 per cent figure) is to be expected (as) there's going to be a learning curve," said JD McNamara, country director, Canada, for Canada Sports Betting and Better Collective. "A lot of the discussion at the beginning of the market is market focused and not necessarily consumer focused."

The survey results can be found at

A large majority of respondents (1,063 or 87 per cent) were born between 1946 and 1996. Just 1.4 per cent (17) were born between 1900-46 while 11.7 per cent (143) were born between 1997-05.

McNamara also said having over half of respondents say they weren't aware of the Ontario launch is significant.

"Those results tell us we have a large percentage of people who're interested in betting but haven't got into the market yet," he said. "And the belief is it's a lack of clarity, a lack of education thus far in the market for them."

Last week, iGaming Ontario (iGO) released its first public report on the opening full quarter of market operations, ending June 30. It stated provincial sports betting produced $162 million in revenues from 492,000 active player accounts and online gambling platforms took in $4.076 billion in total wagers, excluding promotional bets (bonuses).

There were 18 operators and 31 igaming websites active during that time. There are now 26, which includes the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The report didn't include figures from the OLG's online operation, which is reportedly at record levels. Also, many grey-market operators continued to do business in the province over the first three months while working to gain government approval.

The survey suggested there were other areas of sports-betting that respondents were unsure about.

Over 34 per cent admitted they didn't understand the concept of bonuses but just wanted the money while another 25.5 per cent said they understood there were wagering requirements in order to unlock bonuses. Only 17.4 per cent understood bonuses fully while 22.6 per cent said they believed they'd automatically receive bonuses upon signing up with an operator, which is uncommon.

However, in Ontario information about bonuses can't be advertised but it can be promoted on an operator's owned channels.

"Resource and educational sites are a little bit shackled when it comes to providing the type of information that's being provided in other North American markets," McNamara said. "But we see a large percentage of people who don't understand the bonuses. 

"Bonuses have restrictions on them … if you sign up for a $200 bonus, you may need to actually wager five or 10 times that amount in order to unlock the bonus. But you're at nearly 80 per cent of people who don't understand bonuses in some capacity or in a full capacity. Our inability to direct people about which bonuses are potentially the most valuable for the recreational bettor … is contributing to the lack of information in the market."

Many participants were unclear regarding which sportsbooks were operating legally in Ontario. Over 51 per cent believed both BetMGM and Bodog were legal sites despite BetMGM being the only one of the two.

An overwhelming majority of respondents felt there was too much advertising on sports betting as 42.5 per cent strongly agreed and another 30.1 per cent agreed somewhat. That's interesting because Ontario operators have gone to great lengths to have big-name athletes or entertainers involved in their advertising campaigns.

"I think one reason why people don't like the ads is they think it's being pushed on them," McNamara said. 

The top quality being sought from a sports-betting site is trustworthiness (41.1 per cent) but 36.1 per cent of respondents are also looking for quick payouts.

It comes as no surprise that hockey (37.6 per cent) was the most popular sport to bet on. The NFL, which kicks off its '23 season Thursday night, was second (27 per cent) followed by basketball (24.9) and baseball (24.1).

Soccer (19.1 per cent), horse racing (15.3), CFL (12.5), UFC (11.8), golf (nine), tennis, (8.2) and curling (3.3) were also included.

McNamara said with the NFL, NBA and NHL seasons all slated to begin this fall, he expects iGO's future reports to improve exponentially.

"The seasonality of sports is such that the summer is the low season," he said. "Obviously there are still sports going on … but when it includes the NFL, you will see better results.

"Hockey is the sport people are most interested in betting on and that can be fun as we head into the fall."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press