The frustrating pursuit of legal igaming in the U.S. underscores Ontario getting it right out of the gate
While the province closes in on the one-year anniversary of regulated sports betting and online casino, poker, etc., many U.S. states are saying not yet. And, it's time for the Madnesses.
In this issue:
Playing the igaming game
Gaming News Canada Show returns
Leagues not on their own when it comes to betting
As always, much ado about the Madness
Playing the igaming/gambling/online casino, etc., game
“iGaming refers to lottery schemes conducted and managed by OLG or iGaming Ontario that are played or operated through the internet, but does not include OLG lottery products.” (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario)
“Simply put, iGaming is any kind of online betting that wagers on the future outcome of a game or event. Sports betting, online casinos, poker, and eSports all fall under the iGaming definition.” (SportsBettingDime.com)
“The term iGaming can be used in a narrow and in a broad sense. In the narrow sense iGaming refers to online betting on the outcome of a game of chance using electronic means. So we say the ‘i’ in iGaming stands for internet. But if iGaming is making a bet using the internet, then it also falls into the broader concept of gambling, which, in turn, covers a whole range of games, such as casinos, sports betting, sweepstakes, lottery, bingo and card games.” (iGaming software supplier SOFTSWISS)
Why the (i)game of duelling definitions on this middle Thursday morning? To paraphrase Bill Shakespeare, that’s the rub.
A couple of panels at iGaming Next’s NYC23 conference (by the way, props to Pierre Lindh and the gang at iGN for an engaging and entertaining two days) examined the slow boat to Boston that is legalizing online gaming beyond sports betting south of the border. Only a six-pack of states have regulated igaming, and the head of government affairs for Light and Wonder received zero pushback when he very plainly stated the potential for additional states to come on board in 2023.
To put an exclamation point on, at least for now, an exercise in futility, online casino legislation wasn’t included in the New York state budget last week despite the efforts of state senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. Ongoing concerns around gambling addiction and fears that gambling over the internets would be a kick in the derriere to land-based casinos have been front and centre. It was suggested at iGN, however, that the gaming industry has some work to do in lining up the proverbial ducks.
“Doing sports betting in this country wasn’t easy, but it was much more straightforward,” said Martin Lycka, Entain’s regulatory affairs and responsible gambling guru in the U.S. “iGaming bills sparked other groups desperate to piggyback on that. . . . and made it a dog’s dinner. What are we dealing with here, and how broad is the igaming scope?
“I believe that’s what the industry needs to get better at, having a clear, passionate narrative for igaming.”
“If you go to Times Square and ask someone about igaming, you may get ‘is that Call of Duty?’. There’s a perception issue as to exactly what igaming is,” said Michael Ventre, FanDuel’s senior manager for state government relations. “Do we even call it igaming anymore?
And, from Internet Vikings founder and CEO Rickard Vikstrom: “What do we call ourselves? We didn’t have that discussion five years ago. It was ‘lottery’ back then. Coming together will drive the industry forward.”
It would appear that the regulated sports betting and online gaming marketplace created by the AGCO, with a helping hand from its iGaming Ontario subsidiary, has the province standing alone in North America (although Pennsylvania has a similar regulatory framework).
“The approach Ontario has taken is sensible,” said igaming lobby veteran Troy Ross of TRM Public Affairs. “The objective of creating a regulatory regime is to channel nearly 100 per cent of the play into the legal market. When governments limit options for consumers, that creates the conditions for those players to access black market (web) sites.”
Especially when the majority of the revenue comes from the non-sports betting elements of internet gaming/gambling/casino, etc.
Gaming News Canada Show is back this afternoon
We’re back on LinkedIn Audio at 2 p.m. ET, and invite you to join us for 60something minutes of discussion, debate and a few bad puns around the latest happenings in the business of sports betting and gaming. This week’s show will be a round-the-horn type as we’ll take a look back at last week’s conferences in Vancouver and New York, lookahead to March Madness (don’t forget to fill in your bracket this morning), and tackle some other newsworthy items with regular guests Amanda Brewer of Kindred Group, Will Hill from Sightline Payments and Kris Abbott of Kaizen Gaming.
Gaming News Canada is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
NFL, NBA and MLB execs discuss betting, media and fan engagement
Man, how time flies when you’re finding new revenue streams.
OK, OK, we admit that’s an awkward and somewhat cynical spin on the idiom (we were going to embed a Janet Jackson video of the song with the same title but we love our loyal subscribers too much). Anyway. . . . if you’re a newbie to the sports betting biz, it was almost five years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, and opened the door to legal sports betting across the U.S. of A. Up here in the Great White North, that sparked the movement by the folks on Parliament Hill to pass Bill C-218 in the Summer of 2021, to legalize single-event sports betting. The Doug Ford government in Ontari-ari-ari-o had already announced with its provincial budget in the spring of 2019 its intention for an open online gaming market, and delivered it almost a year ago.
Professional sports leagues who right before 2018 condemned betting found themselves going full-on Ralph Kramden.
Fast forward to today, and the NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA Tour and, more recently, the CFL, all have sports betting executives and/or managers (sports wagering is currently in the portfolio of NHL chief business officer Keith Wachtel, but we expect the league of pucks and sticks will follow the lead of the other leagues in the near future given the plethora of partnerships involving the league, teams, sportsbooks, broadcasters and other stakeholders).
So, we’ve grabbed a few highlights from an iGaming Next NYC23 panel last week with MLB gaming VP Casey Brett, NFL general manager of sports betting David Highhill and Eric Rimsky, the NBA’s U.S. fantasy and betting lead, who, for the most part, were singing from the same hymn book.
Rimsky on the NBA dedicating full-time resources to the gaming game: “Our group saw what the NFL and MLB were doing in this space and we felt it was important to create a dedicated group to tap into fantasy, and eventually, betting. We launched the group right before PASPA (was overturned) and it’s been an amazing ride the past five years. Our league is very focused on the engagement element of fantasy and betting.”
Highhill on the same topic: “I’ve been working at the league office on sports betting for a long time. Last year, there was so much activity related to betting that we organized in a way to have air traffic control so we work through all of our initiatives at the same time.”
Brett on collaborating with sportsbooks (earlier this month, MLB announced a North American partnership with FanDuel that makes the betting operator a co-exclusive official betting partner on both sides of the border): “We’ve taken a crawl, walk, jog and run approach (to gaming), and now we are trying to innovate with FanDuel and BetMGM. We’re doing a lot of experimentation and sharing it with the clubs. We’re also starting to see bottom-up innovation, too. The (Washington) Nationals have had an on-site activation (BetMGM Sportsbook at Nationals Park) for a couple of years now, and (best practices and learnings) are being adopted by other clubs.
“We’re also making a big push to more OTT distribution, and that will present a lot of opportunities for personalization. As we become more focused on MLB.TV distribution, it’s going to be something we’re looking at to integrate sports betting applications. Sports betting apps are becoming an interesting second-screen experience and that’s exciting to us. (Also), do I see a world where FanDuel has a large package of rights. We’re going to stream games on FanDuel TV this season.”
On the opportunities for betting to attract new fans
Rimsky: “When we talk about sports betting and fantasy, we’re trying to (exploit those) bring the casual fan to becoming a core fan. There’s an opportunity for fans to not only follow their own local team, but watch games with teams around the league.
“We worked with FanDuel to create a three-month League Pass deal, and we saw a lot of activity.”
Highhill: “We’re not trying to drive fans to wagering. We’re continuing to focus on experiences that are casual and show people the door. Looking at odds for the first time can be really intimidating, so we’re trying to explain them. (Like the NBA), we’re also finding more ways to keep more people engaged in games that don’t have their home team.”
Brett: “We have owned and operated digital platforms, and we have identified bettors and been comparing those people with our general fan base. We’re trying to see if betting is driving engagement. Are they more likely to watch a game on TV, buy a ticket, engage on our digital properties?”
On the relationships between the leagues, teams and operators
Highhill: “The NFL league office holds all media and live game rights, and our clubs have vibrant game-day experiences on site. There’s a really good balance between the national landscape of televised games, and local tickets and experiential at the stadiums.”
Rimsky: “The operators become authorized by doing a deal with the league and then they have the opportunity for other benefits, like team partnerships. The teams lean on us for learnings, although it’s very much give and take. In Ohio and Massachusetts (where legal wagering went live this year), (the Celtics and Cavaliers) have learnings from Philly (the Sixers) and Indy (the Pacers).
Rimsky: “We’re starting to test new products. We’re launching a product shortly (sponsored by DraftKings) where there will be a League Pass overlay. The NFL has done a great job creating casual props like who scores the first touchdown. It’s about storytelling and not just from a betting perspective.”
Highhill: “Optionality for fans is important. One fan will only watch Red Zone, another fan will only watch one game at a time. Our job is to find the right partners and products. (Things like) in-game parlays, we need to find products that are like a Bloomberg (ticker) terminal that is also less casual. We’re working with partners to bring t hose things to life.”
Brett: “There’s a lot of product innovation happening with DraftKings and FanDuel. (With the rush of the past two years to open in new states pretty much over for now), a lot of the books are going to be focused on product and innovation. There’s a lot of green space to find meaningful fan engagement opportunities.”
It’s (almost) all about the Madnesses
In case you don’t have a copy of the bracket for the NCAA men’s and women’s tourneys.
Among the features from FanDuel Canada during the tournament is a Northern Madness bet around the most points by a Canadian in the round of 64 (Purdue’s Zach Edey from Toronto is a minus-350 favourite this a.m.) We’re told that the sportsbook will also have offers around TSN’s coverage of the men’s tournament.
One in four Amaricans will lay some type of wager during the tournament, according to the American Gaming Association.
And, the very smart people at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimate that $2.5 billion will be wagered over the next 19 days with 30-35 per cent of the betting taking place during games. That’s 2.5 times larger than this year’s Super Bowl.
Paul Solman and Ryan Connelly Holmes reported for PBS NewsHour on the explosion in legal sports wagering and the effect on student-athletes.
More, this time from NBC News reporter Dante Chinni, on the legal betting boom in the land of the free.
Incentive Games and Bet365 have gotten together on a free-to-play March Madness bracket challenge with $10 million going to the Jane Doe who picks the right winner in every game.
Sports management veteran Rick Horrow appeared on SportsGrid’s The Morning After show with Ben Stevens, and got into the impact of mobile sports betting on the business side of the tourney.
Geoff Zochodne has a preview on legal online B-E-T-T-I-N-G in the U.S. of A. for the Madness.
Free-to-play provider Low6 is touting reaction of the high-fiving kind it has received to its March Madness Bracket games.
Las Vegas is the site for the West Regional final on the tournament’s second weekend, the first time March Madness games have been played there. Somewhere, Jerry Tarkanian will be chewing a towel.
On the Home Front
Just before we hit the Publish button this morning, we learned that Coolbet has decided it won’t renew its licence next month and is taking leave of the Ontario market.
In case you missed it in Tuesday’s dispatch, the Canadian Gaming Association is hosting an Ontario iGaming Market Turns 1 get-together on April 4th.
And speaking of the CGA, the organization unveiled this week its revamped website.
TheScore Bet pulled back the drapes yesterday on a new web version of its online sportsbook and casino product.
Last week’s announcement by Great Canadian Entertainment that it’s opening a $1 billion casino resort this summer beside Woodbine Racetrack has more than miffed the Mississaugas of Scugog First Nation, owners of Great Blue Heron Casino. The news has also landed OLG in hot water with the community’s chief, Kelly LaRocca.
C.J. Pierre reported for PlayCanada.com that Ontario casinos which offer sports betting may attract an influx of American customers during March Madness.
Geoff Zochodne at Covers.com had the deets on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario sealing a crack on an sports betting self-exclusion loophole.
Queen’s University law student Robyn Ketcheson has published her analysis of money laundering in the Canadian online gaming industry.
PlayCanada.com’s Matthew Lomon chatted with the VP of data science for OPTX about artificial intelligence, casinos and the company’s plans for Canada.
From the more-than-competent communications people at OLG with regards to last Sunday’s Oscars show: 84 percent of PROLINE customers had money on Michelle Yeoh to win Best Actress for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once, and 80 per cent nailed the Best Actor winner with Brendan Fraser from The Whale.
Let’s Get Together
Second Spectrum, a subsidiary of Genius Sports, will be going deeper with the NBA and its League Pass business.
Speaking of the NBA, it announced yesterday a partnership with Toronto-based Playmaker Capital which will see the league provide Futbol Sites with video highlights and other content in Latin America countries.
Pariplay will supply DraftKings with online casino gaming content in The Garden State.
Playtech and Hard Rock Digital announced a North American partnership on Tuesday.
OpenBet announced this week a long-term partnership with Greek gaming company OPAP.
Paddy Power and Spotlight Sports Group have reupped on their video content partnership.
REEVO is doing the partnership thing with Gaming Innovation Group.
Relax Gaming is getting together with Fortune Coins Casino.
Matters of M&A
We present to our loyal subscribers the straight poop and more, compliments of SBC’s Ted Orme-Claye, from Entain’s purchase of Toronto-based esports business Tiidal (yes, two i’s) Gaming
Shareholders of GameSquare and Engine Gaming have agreed to a “business combination”.
Sportradar released its Q4 financials yesterday. From Regulus Partners’ reaction to the results:
“Sportradar is successfully and profitably shifting from a waterfront betting content distribution model to a rights-led model, with ATP demonstrating a major rights-led step forward and the FDC (British soccer) settlement representing a major shift in IP recognition, in our view.”
Genius Sports stock took a tumble following the release of its Q4 earnings.
Jake Evans reported that Super Group is putting more than $116 million into its digital pillow case for losses to its U.S. business this year. And, while perusing the internets yesterday morning, we found this tweet to be of interest:
States Side Stories
Very nicely done by Matt Rybaltowski of Sports Handle putting the parlance around advertising from last week’s conferences into one neat and tidy package.
Janaki Chadha and Sally Goldenberg of Politico dug into the growing list of lobbyists making bank around the push for a casino in the city that never sleeps.
Count GeoComply among the companies with a lot of their respective plates during the first weekend of the legal online sports wagering market in Massachusetts.
PlayMA predicts that the sports betting handle in The Bay State could reach almost $6 billion (U.S.) annually.
DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish found himself in Twitter trouble on the eve of the Massachusetts market launch.
Before the market opened last Friday, the Attorney General’s Office was already fretting about the flood of advertising, and problem gambling.
The state’s bricks-and-mortar casinos combined to deliver almost $100 million in revenue for February.
SBC’s Jessica Welman wrote about Barstool putting its “Can’t Lose Parlays” on hold across the U.S. following concerns expressed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Finally, Gaming Today’s Brant James wrote about the Battle of the ‘Books in Boston. It ain’t no tea party. . . . .
BetMGM CEO Adam Greenbelt said the company’s new partnership with the Boston Red Sox includes some challenges with brand exposure at venerable Fenway Park.
Despite the customers ruling the month, sportsbooks operating in New York still came out more than $108 million to the good in February, according to the state’s gaming commission.
The hammer has come down on gambling advertising across the U.S. of A., wrote Steve Ruddock this week.
DJ Trump’s former energy secretary Rick Perry appeared on the World Series of Politics podcast on his latest stop to push for legal wagering in The Lone Star State.
Mo Mentum has shown up in Kentucky with regards to moving forward with the legalization of sports betting.
Meanwhile, there’s a new bill in the North Carolina legislature to allow legal wagering.
Rege Behe of CDC Gaming Reports wrote a catch-all of sorts on Problem Gambling Awareness Month south of the border.
Dave Briggs did some keyboarding on a record handle for Illinois in January.
A J.P. Morgan analyst concluded that Penn Entertainment’s acquisition of the outstanding shares of Barstool Sports was a formality because the two businesses have already been operating as one.
Across the Ponds
For the first time, the German gambling regulator has fined an operator for not complying with the rules and regulations around advertising. The same regulator also says poppycock to claims by the German Sports Betting Association that strict rules are driving customers to the black market.
Meanwhile, the Belgian government is putting a stop to gambling ads, effective this summer.
There’s a good, bad and potentially ugly chapter to the latest announcement by Sweden’s gambling regulators.
The Portuguese Football Federation has launched a campaign to shine a brighter light on esports.
Brazil’s Minister of Finance promises to deliver a tentative tax framework for licensed operators in the very near future.
Lawmakers in Spain have approved a whole bunch of new responsible gambling measures.
Alexander Lee at Digiday has an excellent piece on an increase of women gamers to esports, and the ridiculous gap in pay between the men and women.
Syracuse University is launching an esports degree program.
James Fudge of The Esports Advocate reported on the latest job cuts at Cloud9 in LA.
Swiss watchmaker TISSOT has inked a partnership deal with a Chinese esports organization.
EXCEL ESPORTS is bringing on board HSBC’s UK operation as a partner.
Some scoopage from New York Post media scribe Andrew Marchand yesterday that Pat McAfee may walk away from his four-year, $120-million deal with FanDuel to seek greener(back) pastures.
It’s official: Diamond Sports Group, owner of the Bally’s Sports regional networks, has filed for Chapter 11 protection.
A recent survey of sports betting industry reporters (we’ve wiped away most of the tears that fell around the keyboard from being excluded as a participant in said survey. . . ) by Hot Paper Lantern shows FanDuel at the top of the food chain but Fanatics as the story to watch in 2023.
Speaking of FanDuel, CEO Amy Howe is a nominee for Sports Executive of the Year honours, which will be announced at the May 24 SBJ Sports Business Awards.
Coming soon to a screen/town near you
There’s still time to complete the application form for the Kaizen GameTech Innovation Challenge, presented by Kaizen Gaming and GSIC.
Chalkline grand poobah Daniel Kustelski is grabbing the mic to lead a Three Keys to Building Permission-Based Databases as Privacy Rules Change webinar at high noon (ET) today.
GBG Plc is hosting a Beating Synthetic Identity Fraud webinar on Tuesday, Mar. 28.
One of your congenial chronicler’s many, many, many former bosses, current U.S. Open tournament director Stacey Allaster, is among the global sports leaders on the speakers docket for the May 12 espnW Summit Canada in Toronto.
Tickets are now available for the October 31-November 2 SBC Summit Latinamerica.
Joey Levy and Jake Paul have called an audible with their Betr business, expanding operations beyond micro betting.
FOTP Chris Grove made available his predictions presentation from the iGaming Next get-together for the general public.
The Association of Certified Gaming Compliance Specialists welcomed Affy Sheikh and Alec Bowers from Starlizard Integrity Services for a webinar on Crime Scene Investigations: Match-Fixing in Sport.
Good reading from the keyboard of Buck Wargo on an appearance by a former U.S. military spy at last week’s World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas.
The chief technology officer at GBG Plc addressed the relationship between artificial intelligence and data privacy.
Chris Stewart of Scripps News did some reporting on the potential role of AI in fighting gambling addictions.
The director of sales and BD for GiG had a chin wag with Pierre Lindh on the iGaming Next managing director’s latest podcast.
People on the Move
Alexandar Petrovich, the former Managing Director/Director of Operations for Mansion Group, has joined Pariplay as Vice President of Operations.
Tor Skeie has been named CEO at OddsMatrix, the sportsbook subsidiary of EveryMatrix.
Nick Negro is the new Chief Financial Officer at Scientific Games.
Adam Smith has had the “interim” removed from his CEO title at FSB.
Vivek Duggal has been promoted to Senior Marketing Communications Manager at OLG.
There’s been some shuffling of the deck chairs at esports business Astralis. Commercial Director Kasper Sindt has departed, and his roles and responsibilities will be split between Niclas Nybjerg (sales and commercial deliveries) and Mads Rasmussen (sales director).
Kristen Rocoo has left Global Payments Inc. and is starting her own content strategy/services business.
Ali Aftab, formerly of Twitter, has joined theScore as Engineering Manager, Sports API while Adam Terrenzio is also on board as an Engineering Manager.
Caleb Caunce has been elevated to Supervisor, Activation Team at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Maria Maes has joined Sightline Payments as Client Solutions Partner, Mobile.
Classified (Jobs) Information
Wanted by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation: a Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. OLG is also on the lookout for a Director, Strategy Development.
The Score is on a seek-and-employ mission for a Risk & Trading Insights Analyst, and is also hiring a Sports Trader.
Sports Interaction has a hybrid opportunity out of its Toronto office for a Creative Director of Design.
Our friends at SBC Americas are accepting applications for a Conference Producer.
The International Tennis Integrity Agency has an opening for a Science and Medicine Manager - Anti-Doping.
Livespins is in hiring mode for a Head of Product.
Catena Media is seeking a Managing Editor for its PlayUSA.com outlet.
The very fine folks at Spotlight Sports Group are searching for a Media Partnerships Manager.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is seeking a Curator of Gaming Collections.
The PGA of Canada has an opening for a Director of Operations.
About the Numbers
The Homestand Show peeps reacted earlier this week to Aaron Rodgers telling Pat McAfee the JETS, JETS, JETS are his preferred next destination.
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