Deep Playoff Runs From Lions And Bills Good For Ontario’s Gambling Business

Written By Matthew Lomon on January 18, 2024
Jared Goff of the Detroit Lions throwing a pass. Ontario Online Sportsbooks Benefitting From Lions And Bills

The Super Bowl hopes of Ontario’s two “home” NFL teams — the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions — are still alive after a thrilling Wild Card weekend.

Jared Goff and the Lions defeated Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams 24-23 in the battle of the ex-quarterbacks to secure the franchise’s first playoff victory in 32 years. The magnetic Sunday night feature averaged $31.9 million viewers, according to NBC data. That’s the largest prime-time television audience, regardless of genre, since last year’s Super Bowl.

Down in Orchard Park, NY, Josh Allen and the Bills weathered the storm (literally) to make relatively easy work of the seventh-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-17.

With both teams now advancing to the Divisional round, PlayCanada wondered if Ontario sportsbooks saw any interesting trends concerning the Lions or Bills over the weekend. To find out, we contacted six different operators (five online, one retail). Here’s what they had to say.

Player props, not game lines favour Ontario’s teams on OLG’s Proline

Over on Ontario Lottery and Gaming’s Proline, bettors leaned heavily into Lions and Bills player props. This was apparent, told an OLG spokesperson, by the number of bets placed on both teams’ star players.

On the Lions’ side, customers largely favoured Goff, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Amon-Ra St. Brown to go over their respective passing, rushing, and receiving yard totals. Similarly, in the Bills game, bettors sided with the exact same overs on Allen, James Cook, and Dalton Kincaid.

Further, the Bills QB was the most popular choice to score the game’s first touchdown, absorbing nearly 37% of wagers. But, the loyalty to big number 17 didn’t pay off, as the honour went to teammate, Dawson Knox.

The under was a popular betting choice for rival players in each game. Customers sided against Rams’ budding star Kyren Williams, opting for the under on his rushing yards prop. The betting populous was equally against Steelers QB Mason Rudolph, with his passing yards under being a common choice.

That said, the provincial lottery site revealed its customers showed some love to former Lions signal-caller Matthew Stafford. While that may have had more to do with an exploitable Lions’ secondary and motivation to send his old team packing, Proline bettors didn’t hold any grudges.

Sticking with the Lions-Rams theme, players actually favoured the Rams in terms of game lines. Whether that was on the spread or moneyline wasn’t clear. But, either way, the majority of Proline bettors in Ontario didn’t anticipate the Lions putting an end to what was once the NFL’s longest playoff win drought.

DraftKings and BetMGM bettors playing the long game

Unlike Proline punters, the focus from Wildcard weekend for players on DraftKings and BetMGM remained on the future(s).

A company spokesperson shared DraftKings Sportsbook data from Jan. 14, showing the Bills and Lions rank highly amongst Ontario bettors in the Super Bowl and conference champion markets.

  • Buffalo is the 5th most-bet team to win the SB by handle and the most by bets
  • Buffalo is the 3rd most-bet team to win the AFC by handle and 2nd most by bets
  • Detroit is the 4th most-bet team to win the SB by handle and the 2nd most by bets
  • Detroit is the 2nd most-bet team to win the NFC by handle and bets

While the handle numbers aren’t as inspiring, total wager volume is where both teams shine. Here, the Bills and Lions rank one-two, respectively, in the DK Super Bowl winner category.

BetMGM Sportsbook, which only shared Bills-related numbers, showed more of the same.

  • Buffalo is 2nd most-bet team to win the SB by handle (20.4%) and the most by bets (13.7%)
  • Buffalo is the most-bet team to win the AFC by handle (77.3%) and bets (34.0%)

Overall, the operator says the Bills are the biggest liability in Ontario for both of these markets. The story with BetMGM’s numbers doesn’t end here, however.

If we compare January’s edition of BetMGM’s numbers against what we retrieved from last November’s study asking if the Lions had overtaken the Bills as Ontario’s team, there is a slight uptick in the Super Bowl market.

In November, 23% of money and 13.1% of bets were on the Bills to win Super Bowl LVIII (both figures were also the most at the time). Nearly two months later, the total money rose by 2.6% and number of bets by 0.6%.

Lions the popular choice on FanDuel now, but Bills remain on top

Based on data from the FanDuel Canada Trading Team, bettors on FanDuel Sportsbook believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t stand a chance on Sunday afternoon.

“Ontario bettors are heavily favouring the Lions over the Bucs this weekend with almost 70% of the moneyline bets on Detroit,” said a FanDuel spokesperson.

One Pride fever is also catching on south of the border. Since Sunday, the Lions have been the most popular Super Bowl champion future amongst FanDuel’s American customers. They rank ahead of both the Bills and Green Bay Packers.

Back north of the border, bettors continue to side more heavily with the Bills. While the specific nature and overall volume of bets were not provided, FanDuel said Ontario’s loyalty remains with Bills Mafia.

“Overall, the Bills’ large Ontario fanbase is having more of an impact on bettor’s selections in comparison to the small Lions fanbase.”

PointsBet’s Bills-sided numbers in line with pre-season expectations

Besides the natural uptick in playoff game betting, PointBet Sportsbook reported nothing out of the ordinary on the Bills and Lions’ front.

That said, the company’s Ontario spokesperson did say it’s seen “a lot of interest in Bills outrights, both to win the AFC and Super Bowl.” This Bills interest, he said, clearly usurps that of the Lions.

Coming into the season, the Bills were pegged as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Most books had them around +900. The Lions, on the other hand, were seen as an ascending team in the NFC that still needed more seasoning. This was reflected in the team opening at +2500 to win the Super Bowl.

While both squads are certainly on the right path now, the Bills’ previous run of strong play appears to have given the team an advantage over the just recently exciting Lions. In the mind of bettors, at least.

Caesars Windsor retail sportsbook gives Ontario

Caesars Windsor and its full-service Caesars Sportsbook offer Lions fans in Southern Ontario a home away from Ford Field for Sunday’s tilt with the Buccaneers.

The Ontario casino has been a popular destination for football fans throughout the playoffs, according to Caesars Windsor manager of PR and communications, Susanne Tomkins. Equipped with 22 large-screen TVs, including two 98-inch displays, three betting windows, and seven self-serve betting kiosks, the Las Vegas-style sportsbook has everything Lions fans need ahead of the momentous occasion.

Caesars Windsor is one of five retail gambling facilities in Ontario to offer a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. It became the province’s first full-service offering after opening in January 2023.

Photo by Duane Burleson / AP Photo
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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