Have The Detroit Lions Overtaken The Buffalo Bills As Ontario’s Team?

Written By Matthew Lomon on November 23, 2023
Have The Detroit Lions Overtaken The Buffalo Bills As Ontario's Team?

Through 11 weeks of play, it’s been a tale of two seasons for the NFL squads bordering Ontario.

Both the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills rode into 2023 saddled with the blessing (or burden) of high expectations. So far, only one has been able to turn the most meaningless currency on planet Earth, preseason hype, into something of value.

Currently sitting atop the NFC North, the Lions are 8-2 for the first time since 1962. History buffs will remember that year for the Cuban Missile Crisis, while others may have fond memories of a young Fran Tarkenton evading tacklers for the Minnesota Vikings. Tarkenton is now 83 and he’s 39 years removed from the last season as co-host of That’s Incredible!

The Bills, on the other hand, have plodded to a 6-5 record this year and face a daunting final six-game stretch.

Entering the NFL’s 104th season, the Bills shared the third-best Super Bowl odds with San Francisco and Philadelphia. As of today, they have the ninth-best odds. The Lions entered where the Bills sit now, with the ninth-lowest odds. However, their strong start has propelled them ahead of the Bills into seventh.

That got us thinking ahead of today’s Lions Thanksgiving Day tilt with the Green Bay Packers:

They sure don’t look like the Same Old Lions, so what if NFL bettors in Ontario are now opting for a virtual trip down the Ambassador Bridge instead of the Peace Bridge?

To test our hypothesis, PlayCanada enlisted the help of four Ontario sportsbook and casino operators. Here’s what we found.

Bills Mafia still the Don on BetMGM Ontario

Thanks to resident Bills Fan Garnet Barnsdale, we were able to put together an ultimate gameday guide for Canadian fans heading down to Buffalo. And, based on the numbers from BetMGM Ontario, it doesn’t seem fans in Ontario are hankering for a Lions gameday guide just yet.

According to the operator, it is not seeing an increase in wagering on the Lions from bettors in Ontario. Looking at the numbers below, there is a clear drop in Lions wagering in Ontario:

  • Ontario: 4.7% of bets and 5% of money is on the Lions to win the Super Bowl
  • All other BetMGM markets: 8% of bets and 7.5% of money is on the Lions to hoist the Lombardi Trophy

On the contrary, a spokesperson for BetMGM said “the Bills receive more support from bettors in Ontario than the rest of the markets we are in.” The numbers testify to that.

  • Ontario: 13.1% of bets (most) and 23% of money (most) is on the Bills to win Super Bowl LVIII
  • All other Bet MGM markets: 6.9% of bets and 9.6% of money is on the Bills to win the Super Bowl

For those keeping score at home, that’s Bills 1, Lions 0.

Proline numbers suggest a tighter battle, but also a larger question

On OLG Proline, which itself has seen a 25% increase in sales over last year, the Lions appear to fare much better than on BetMGM.

That said, there’s a schedule factor that needs to be addressed.

Plainly speaking, a 50% increase in wagering on Lions’ games this season compared to last is encouraging. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean all the action is skewed towards the Lions.

The team has seen a noticeable uptick in primetime games – Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday night – this season. That certainly bodes well for more viewership and betting activity, but the latter is more likely to be a product of scheduling than anything else.

For example, Proline’s second most popular game from the Week 10 slate was Raiders-Jets. Not much needs to be said about that.

So, knowing that the Lions’ most popular game this year was the season opener against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, it’s not fair to say it was because fans jumped on the One Pride bandwagon early. Further, the team has already appeared on TNF twice this season — and it will be three times after the Thanksgiving game — and MNF once.

All of this brings up the question: Is it the team or the time slot fans are wagering on?

Now, in all fairness, the same thought applies to the Bills. Their Monday night matchup with the Denver Broncos was the most bet game of Week 10. How much of that had to do with the time slot? According to an OLG spokesperson, that usually helps, but the team played a significant role, too.

“Obviously, the fact it was a Monday Night Football game helps but still, we haven’t seen a significant number of PROLINE customers jumping ship in favour of the Lions (at least not yet).”

With all that in mind, it’s hard to award the Lions a point. Bills 2, Lions 0.

PointsBet numbers reveal surge in Lions betting, but no clear winner

In the previous section, we talked about the influence that primetime games have on wagering activity. Well, the data we received from PointsBet Ontario sportsbook was able to provide a bit of context to the vital team or time slot question.

Data from PointsBet’s trading team revealed that Lions games have seen 23% more turnover than the average, non-primetime game this season. Again, much like Proline’s findings, this doesn’t exactly mean bettors are locking in on the Lions, specifically.

However, removing the primetime factor from the equation at least makes for a more compelling case in favour of the Lions.

That said, PointsBet’s data also reported a clear win for the Bills on the basis of geography. While a concrete number was not given, the company said it sees more local border bias towards the Bills.

These findings raise another important question about strong team play versus fan proximity. The easy answer would be the Lions take the former, while the Bills score the latter. But, there’s no way to be certain based on the available information.

For that reason, this section is a wash.

The score remains Bills 2, Lions 0.

Lions a fan favourite on FanDuel Canada

WynnBet, which is not available in Ontario, is the official sportsbook partner of the Detroit Lions. But, based on the FanDuel Ontario sportsbook‘s data, it appears that’s a non-issue for Lions backers just north of the border.

According to a FanDuel representative, the company, “continues to see an increased interest in betting on their (Lions) games and in their playoff futures.”

At this time, Detroit is the seventh most-bet team to win the Super Bowl on FanDuel. That aligns with their overall standing of seventh mentioned earlier.

While that is certainly a strong indicator of bettor belief, the fact they are also the most bet on team to win the NFC by a strong margin is arguably more impactful. On FanDuel, the Lions have generated 50% more bets than the next most bet selection, the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Unfortunately, we were not able to obtain the same information for the Bills. But, after all these years of failed draft picks, wasted superstars, and paper bags, it’s time Detroit got some love.

Point, Lions.

But the province’s betting heart still belongs in Buffalo.

Final score: Bills 2, Lions 1

Photo by Rick Osentoski / 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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