Legal Canadian Sports Betting Could Shake Up North American Market


Canada’s likely 2021 single-game sports betting launch could open up another major North American wagering market while giving a new opportunity — and impetus — for bettors further south.

Canadian officials reaffirmed Wednesday the government’s commitment to nationwide legal wagering. Legislation is advancing through Parliament with hopes single-game wagering could begin by fall 2021.

“There’s tremendous potential for sports betting to take off in Canada, and I definitely think there’s demand from the public,” said Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, during an industry conference Wednesday. “It will be a tremendous time ahead.”

In Ontario, Canada’s most populated providence, backers see an opportunity to rival some of America’s largest state markets. With twice the population of New Jersey, which set a U.S. single-month handle record of $803 million in October, Ontario could be one of the continent’s highest-grossing jurisdictions.

It could also be an opportunity for one of America’s most populated states.

New York Looks At Another Neighboring Market

As mobile sports betting legislation lingers in the statehouse, some upstate New York residents could be closer than ever to legal wagering, both literally and figuratively.

Residents of Buffalo, New York’s second-largest metro area, could be among the biggest beneficiaries of legal Canadian sports betting due to its symbiotic relationship with Niagara Falls. More than 10 million people crossed the Niagara River border in 2019 alone, the most of any entry point between the U.S. and Canada. Another 2.5 million people crossed the border at Champlain Rouses Point in New York’s far northeastern corner.

Once the pandemic-induced border restrictions are fully lifted and Canadian sports betting begins, Buffalo residents will be among hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living a few miles from a legal online wagering market, on top of the nearby retail options at tribal casinos.

It also means New York will border what could be three of the continent’s highest-grossing sports wagering jurisdictions in Ontario as well as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Legal Canadian sports betting is unlikely in and of itself to spark mobile wagering legislation in New York. Even statewide mobile wagering won’t be enough to combat the Canadian offshore market, officials acknowledged during Wednesday’s session of the Betting on Sports America Digital conference, and players in both countries will still solicit unlicensed bookmakers.

Still, as New York faces a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, it will also see a new — and likely substantial — sports betting market to its north. Any U.S. dollars wagered across the border would be much-needed potential tax revenue the state wouldn’t see.