Kelly Brooks was caught off guard by the sudden clearing of her calendar last week.
“A lot of customers cancelled meetings,” laughed Brooks, the CEO of Quarter4 Inc., a Waterloo company that uses artificial intelligence to make millions of predictions on NBA, NHL, NFL and U.S. college football games, among other sports.
The New York State Gaming Commission gave DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook and Rush Street Interactive the green light to begin accepting sports wagers. A little more than 72 hours later, DraftKings accepted the first bet: $15 on an NFL six-team parlay.
Twelve hours after opening, 6.8 million wagers had been placed, and by the end of the weekend that number had skyrocketed to 17 million bets. Among the 30 states (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize sports wagering since 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban, the New York launch was the biggest yet.
“There’s a good chance sports betting has already generated $5 million in taxes so far (based on a tax rate of 51 per cent on gross gaming revenue),” Ryan Butler, who covers the U.S. betting and online gaming industry for Wagers.com, said Wednesday. “If that’s the case, that’s more (money) than every New York retail sportsbook has made in the last two years combined.”
The turbo-charged weekend of wagering in one of Ontario’s neighbouring states also shone a spotlight once again on the highly anticipated opening of the province’s betting and gaming industry. Both the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario — which along with its subsidiary, iGaming Ontario, is responsible for the licensing and regulation of the new sports betting and online gaming industry — said this week that the process toward opening continues.
“Ontario’s legal and regulatory landscape is unique and brings new requirements for many operators, particularly those not located in Canada,” Natasha Krstajic, press secretary and parliamentary adviser for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement. “The government, AGCO and iGaming Ontario are working with prospective operators to ensure Ontario is ready for the market launch, and its timing will be announced at a future date.”
For some stakeholders the lack of a specific date is frustrating, while others point to the regulatory process and the province’s focus on the latest COVID-19 wave for the delay.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to plan anything with certainty,” Amanda Brewer, who leads Kindred Group’s new Canadian operation. “If the market launch is March 1, or April 1, or May 1, please just tell us and we can adjust accordingly. In the meantime, we’re all watching New York open and only imagine what Ontario will be like.”
Added Paul Burns, the Canadian Gaming Association’s president and CEO: “Confirming a date is what everyone is looking for.”
Martin Lycka, who moved from London to New York in late 2020 to oversee regulatory affairs and responsible gambling for Entain in Canada, the U.S. and Latin America, is taking a more patient approach.
“It would be beneficial for the industry to have a date by which everybody could be smoothly ushered into the new regulated market,” said Lycka, whose employers operate the iconic Ladbrokes sportsbook in the U.K. and also have a 50 per cent stake in BetMGM. “But that can’t happen at the expense of the quality of regulation.”
Jeff Ifrah, a founding member and general counsel for the iDevelopment and Economic Association, which represents all sectors of the betting and gaming industry, echoed Lycka.
“It’s not uncommon for the regulatory process to take an uncomfortable amount of time,” said Ifrah. “Everyone is excited about Ontario and it’s expected to be bigger than any (U.S.) state that’s open right now. (But) no operator wants to go live before it’s truly ready.”
In the meantime, the planning continues. PointsBet Canada announced a marketing deal Friday morning with the Trailer Park Boys after being introduced Tuesday as the official betting partner in Canada for the NHL Alumni Association. Also Tuesday, NorthStar Gaming, a partner of Torstar Corporation, named U.K. gambling technology giant Playtech as its provider of online casino and sports betting platforms. Brewer just signed a contract to give Kindred Group office space in downtown Toronto, and her first hire begins next week.
Brooks said there’s increased awareness around job opportunities in the new industry.
“Two years ago, we were looking to hire some machine-learning scientists (at Quarter4) and we received 17 resumés. Six months ago for the same position, 140 resumés.
“When we interview these people, they know what’s going on in the betting industry.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION