PointsBet Partners with the Ottawa REDBLACKS as Ontario Online Sports Betting Launch Nears

The announcement comes as Ontario is preparing to launch a new iGaming market and as the CFL has made sports betting a pillar of its strategy for raising revenue and interest.

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2022 4:16 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
R.J. Harris Ottawa REDBLACKS CFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

An online sportsbook that wraps itself in red and black is partnering with a Canadian Football League team that does the same.

The Canadian arm of PointsBet, the CFL’s Ottawa REDBLACKS, and TD Place (the team’s home venue) announced a new partnership on Thursday.

Under the terms of the deal, PointsBet Canada will become the official sportsbook of the REDBLACKS, which will wear jerseys this coming season with the company’s logo on them. PointsBet branding will also appear throughout TD Place, and the bookmaker will be the new presenting sponsor of the “PointsBet Sideline Club” at field level. 

“It is hard to imagine anything more Canadian than the Canadian Football League (CFL) in Ottawa,” said Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada, in a press release. “We are excited to be working with one of the premier franchises in the CFL and can’t wait to bring a new, unrivaled form of entertainment to REDBLACKS fans.”

PointsBet was founded in Australia but it is one of potentially dozens of operators planning to go live in a competitive market for online sports betting and casino gambling that is scheduled to launch on April 4 in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.

The market will be a first for Canada and will authorize the likes of PointsBet and others to take bets in Ontario, which, like other provinces, has allowed its government-owned lottery corporation to control legal internet gambling. 

However, more legal online wagering options are on the way, as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has already given its approval to 15 operators aiming to crack the province’s coming iGaming market, including PointsBet. At least 30 operators have applied for that approval, which could make for a fierce fight for customers in Ontario, and make official partnerships a key differentiator and advertising advantage. 

PointsBet is aiming to launch in the province on April 4. The company also has some experience in entering new markets, as it is already doing business in Australia, Ireland, and several U.S. states, such as New York.

The bookmaker has struck a number of other partnerships as well. And, in Canada, it has been aiming to brand itself in a very Canadian way, such as by becoming the official sports betting partner of Curling Canada

“PointsBet Canada is committed to building an identity that acknowledges the little intricacies that make us all proud to be Canadian. Nothing says Canadian like three downs, a 55-yard line and the rouge,” said Nic Sulsky, chief commercial officer for PointsBet Canada, in the release. “We are excited to add a little bit more red and black to RNation for years to come!”

An audition of sorts

PointsBet’s latest partnership will make the company highly visible in Canada’s capital, where lawmakers voted last year to allow the provinces to offer single-game sports betting. Those same lawmakers in Ottawa will now be able to go to a REDBLACKS game and see a byproduct of legalizing single-event wagering, as Ontario has made it a key part of its new iGaming market. 

Sulsky told Covers that PointsBet wants to ensure they can educate and engage members of Parliament from across the country. If those MPs have a good experience, it could inspire them and provincial lawmakers to try to adopt a multi-operator model like Ontario's in other parts of Canada. 

Another reason for PointsBet's partnership spree, which now includes a tie-up with one of the three CFL teams in Ontario, is that it is entering a market rife with "grey" wagering. Canadians and Ontarians are already betting millions every year with offshore and out-of-province bookmakers, and PointsBet needs to find a way to stand out and attract customers.

"We're trying really hard to build an authentically Canadian brand," Sulsky said. "And there's nothing more authentic than the nation's capital, right?"

An interest of their own

Thursday’s announcement also comes as the CFL has made sports betting a pillar of its strategy for raising revenue and interest.

The league lobbied (successfully, as it turned out) for the legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada and even formed a partnership of its own with Genius Sports Ltd., a data-and-tech company that has similar deals with other sports organizations, including the National Football League. 

Teams around the CFL have already struck sports-betting partnerships with operators that are not yet regulated by Canadian authorities but that may be overseen elsewhere.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), the owner and operator of the REDBLACKS, is now jumping into that fray, although there will not be betting kiosks or retail sportsbooks at TD Place involved, at least for now.

“We proudly wave the Canadian and CFL flag in the Nation’s Capital and it was important to us that this partnership be with a Canadian operator who not only knows the City of Ottawa, but also loves the CFL and appreciates our REDBLACKS fans and the passion they have for our team and our league,” OSEG President and CEO Mark Goudie said in the release. 

What bettors want

Even if there are no brick-and-mortar betting options, there will be plenty of online ones. And, as Sulsky sees it, there is a "massive opportunity" to grow the amount of wagering on the CFL. 

In addition to the usual betting possibilities, PointsBet plans on ensuring there is an abundance of player props and live betting markets when the regular season begins in June.

"And as we learn what the CFL sports fan wants to engage with, we're really going to lean in and customize those products," Sulsky said. 

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