In Ontario, How Big Could Hockey Betting Become?
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It might seem like a grasp of the obvious, when talking about sports betting in Canada and hockey, but those behind PROLINE+, the only legal online sportsbook for Ontario sports betting, and private operators applying for licenses in Ontario now, know full well how mammoth a betting audience Canada’s national game will attract.
The NHL season launches Tuesday, with the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning facing the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Toronto Maple Leafs open at home the following night against the Montreal Canadiens. And the Ottawa Senators open at home against those same Leafs on Thursday night.
RELATED: 2022 Stanley Cup Odds For All 7 Canadian NHL Teams
The Leafs-Habs game will have particular interest with sportsbooks, after the Habs unceremoniously dumped the favored Leafs out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring. Emotions will be running high in this one.
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Betting With Emotion
“Emotion” is an interesting factor since that will drive a lot of NHL sports betting, said Rhea Jankowski, director of digital sports marketing and operations for Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., which runs PROLINE+.
Bettors tend to go for the home teams they are most passionate about. Single events make up the majority of PROLINE+ wagers, she added. So the Leafs’ success this season will very much drive NHL wagering on betting apps. Jankowski predicts it will be a solid No. 2 in action behind the behemoth NFL.
According to Jankowski, Ontarians are betting on the Leafs, with 28% of all wagers to win the Stanley Cup are on the blue and white. The New York Islanders are second with 19% of all wagers and the Senators have 4%. Last year’s finalist, the Canadiens, have just 1.66% of all bets.
The Russian KHL and MHL leagues are the second and third most popular hockey leagues among PROLINE+ players. Since their end-of-August official launch, PROLINE+ has accepted 3.45 million bets overall.
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NFL Still Betting Favorite
NFL games have seen 34% of the wagers (football gets 45% of all wagers). Baseball comes in second with 30% of all wagers, and soccer attracts 18% (English Premier League, MLS and UEFA Champions League are the most popular soccer leagues on PROLINE+).
Nic Sulsky, chief commercial officer for PointsBet’s new Canadian operation, said hockey obviously will have a bigger audience among sports bettors in Canada than it has in the U.S. market, but he’s also quick to add they don’t want to underestimate the love Canadians have for all sports. That’s especially true for sports involving Canadians.
“The more interesting question may be whether sports like curling, that has almost no popularity in America, will have an impact on how the market shakes out north of the 49,” Sulsky adds.
One source on the private operators' side said they were optimistically hoping to be licensed and taking NFL betting wagers in Ontario by the Super Bowl on Feb. 13. By then the NHL will be well into its second half.
So stay tuned. As the regulated sports betting industry in Ontario starts to take shape more, it will be interesting to see just how big a bite hockey, especially the NHL, takes out of the betting apple.
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