Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. plans to keep adding more sports and more betting options to its recently launched online sportsbook, as the government-owned entity prepares to compete later this year with private-sector operators.
OLG’s PROLINE+ opened for business in the early hours of Friday, August 27, the same day that single-game sports betting officially became legal across Canada.
The first single-game bet for the online sportsbook came in shortly after 5:00 a.m. ET, on a baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Minnesota Twins, according to Dave Pridmore, OLG’s chief digital and strategy officer.
Ontario bettors are now able to access a wider selection of betting markets using OLG's online book, including ones for sports that weren’t previously available under the company's old model, such as golf and tennis. Live sports betting is offered as well to players, who can access the website-based PROLINE+ using a computer or smartphone.
There is more to come, Pridmore said, as what’s there is not the “permanent roster” of sports and events. OLG also plans on rolling out a new sports-betting app and updated product for its lottery retailers early next year.
“We have plans to bring more sports into the offering for OLG, more events, different types of bets,” Pridmore told Covers in a recent interview. “We’ll continue to grow and evolve over time.”
An open field
For the moment, PROLINE+ is the only legal online sportsbook in Ontario, the most populous province in Canada and one of the biggest subnational economies in North America. In other words, OLG has a head start in a rather attractive market.
That’s because, while Canadians are estimated to be placing billions of dollars in wagers a year with offshore sportsbooks, the only operators currently authorized by provincial governments to take single-game wagers on their turf are the lotteries. OLG was joined by peers such as British Columbia Lottery Corp. and Loto-Québec in launching single-game wagering products on Day 1 of the legal market.
However, OLG is unique among those peers in that its provincial government expects to launch in December a new competitive market for internet gaming — with sports betting included. Before 2021 is over, Ontario bettors could take their business elsewhere, by signing up and wagering with other authorized operators, such as Toronto-based theScore.
OLG, then, has good cause to ensure bettors like its new sportsbook. If they don’t, the lottery’s head start could evaporate quickly, reducing the amount of sports betting-related profit it can provide to the provincial government.
Pridmore says OLG is looking forward to the challenge, and that it plans on ensuring it has the right mix of events and odds now and in the future. The company is also offering to give new players up to $25 for signing up, which follows a $50 pre-launch promo.
“Even if the market wasn't opening up, we would be making sure that our customer needs were met,” Pridmore said.
In Toronto this morning and it just so happens it is also day one of legal single game betting.— Adam Chernoff (@adamchernoff) August 27, 2021
Going to be honest. I’m shocked at how…decent (?) the OLG debut product is. Full game sides/totals fairly priced. Halves and prop selection good - although expensive. Not bad. pic.twitter.com/iGfMlXGCWa
Fortunately for OLG, the reviews for PROLINE+ have been relatively good so far.
Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli wrote in an August 27 report that “social media and industry news affiliates” had been skeptical about the sportsbook. Much of this, he added, stemmed from the sort of odds players were getting under the old, parlay-only model of sports betting.
“With the launch of the OLG ProLine+ Online Betting app today, we believe this sentiment has or is likely to change, as the offering provides not only competitive odds, but also includes some innovative features, putting the offering, in our view, on par with, or better than, some of the offshore products currently being offered,” Santarelli said.
OLG is pleased with the response from players, too. Since going live last Friday, OLG says PROLINE+ has generated around 10,000 betting tickets and $200,000 in wagering per day, with the average wager per ticket about $21.10. In its last fiscal year, the average wager per ticket at retail locations was $9.26. As of Wednesday, OLG said PROLINE+ had taken more than $1 million in bets.
Players are availing themselves of the newer betting options as well. As of Tuesday, OLG said approximately 74 percent of bets have been singles so far and that almost 37 percent of bets have been placed in-game.
OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti said in an email that they expect the number of tickets and the amount of wagering per day to keep climbing as the company’s advertising gains traction and the football season kicks off.
“We have noticed there is no cannibalization so far on the retail PROLINE product due to the launch of PROLINE+,” Bitonti added in an email. “Retail PROLINE remains very popular with the more savvy sports bettors.”
A French connection
OLG says its new sportsbook was developed in partnership with FDJ Gaming Solutions and Sporting Solutions. The two companies are subsidiaries of FDJ Group, a publicly traded gaming operator that runs the French national lottery.
FDJ was selected using a competitive bidding process and the company will now work with OLG to bring new betting options and a mobile app to market.
OLG is talking to the operators of its land-based casinos as well about bringing sports betting to those brick-and-mortar locations.
The physical sportsbooks could be another way of ensuring customers stay loyal to OLG when the broader iGaming market opens. Pridmore also pointed to the company's “full suite of offerings,” such as the lottery and online casino parts of the business, as another boon.
But before the year is over, the attractiveness of those offerings could be put to the test.
“I would say that we're ready for this competitive environment,” Pridmore said. “We feel as though our offering can stand up and be equivalent to customer needs from other future registrants into this marketplace.”