Technically, you can already bet on sports in Ontario. It’s just that you’re limited to betting parlays with the Ontario Lottery Corporation’s PROLINE lottery products. And you can only purchase PROLINE tickets in person at licensed lottery retailers across the province.
Fortunately, that’s all about to change.
Federal sports betting legislation that would lift the ban on single-game wagering and put the decision on full-scale sports betting back into the hands of the province passed its second reading in the House of Commons in February 2021.
The province itself is breaking up the Ontario Lottery Corporation’s monopoly on online gambling by creating an entity under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to regulate it. That entity will then license privately run online sportsbooks and casinos here.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to “establish a competitive market for online legal gambling,” in the 2020 provincial budget. Coupled together, federal single-game wagering legislation and Ontario’s move towards a competitive online gaming market will deliver on the sports betting part of that promise.
All signs point to online and mobile single-game sports betting coming to Ontario sooner rather than later, which is why you’ll find a complete guide to online sports betting in Ontario below. It’s a full breakdown of everything you need to know about online sports betting in Ontario, including:
- How sports betting works in Ontario now
- When single-game betting will come to Ontario
- Which sports betting apps will come to Ontario
- Online vs. Retail sportsbooks
- Lottery parlay betting vs. single-game betting
- Betting Markets coming to Ontario
- Sportsbook and Pro Team Partnership Deals
- In-Play/Live Betting
- Ontario Sport Betting and Online Gambling Law
- Why You Should Always Bet with a Licensed Sportsbook
- US Sports Betting
How sports betting works in Ontario right now
Right now, the only legal way to bet on sports in Ontario is through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s PROLINE lottery products. You can only purchase PROLINE tickets in person at licensed lottery retailers. Plus, it’s all parlay betting. There is a PROLINE app, but it can only be used for bet building, not online wagering.
Here’s a more detailed look at the four different PROLINE sports betting lottery products:
A minimum of three and a maximum of six-game NHL, CFL, NFL, NBA, NCAA football and basketball, MLB, MLS, and European soccer parlays as offered. The only way to win is to get all your picks right. It’s essentially moneyline odds parlay betting with a fixed spread for each game. Set spreads differ for each sport.
Bets are on one of five outcomes:
- Visitor to win by larger spread or more
- Visitor to win by smaller spread or more
- Home team to win by smaller spread or more
- Home team to win by larger spread or more
- 1-2 goals in hockey and baseball
- 4-8 points in football
- 6 or 11 points in basketball
- 1 goal in soccer
The minimum bet is $2 and the maximum is $100.
Pool parlay betting is where you compete against the other players entering the same pool by picking visitors or home wins for all events listed on a pool parlay card.
Entries are $5 per card. Prize pools are made up of 60% of all entry fees paid. All those with the most correct picks share the prize pool. Ties go to the visitor.
Baseball, basketball, college basketball, football, college football, hockey, soccer and car racing pools are available.
Allowed are 2-12 game pro football, college football, pro basketball, college basketball, baseball, and hockey single-sport against-the-spread parlays. The only way to win is to get all your picks against-the-spread right.
Parlay betting with variable spreads set by oddsmakers for each game. The minimum bet is $2 and the maximum $100.
Allowed are 3-6 prop football, baseball, basketball and hockey over/under prop parlays. The only way to win is to get all your picks right. Parlay betting with variable odds set by oddsmakers for each side of a prop. Team and player stat props available. The minimum bet is $2 and the maximum $100.
Legal vs Illegal Sportsbooks
Since Canadian law makes it illegal to run a sportsbook, but not necessarily against the law to bet on sports, there are a number of “offshore” sportsbooks that offer a variety of single-game betting options to Canadians online.
Most offer better odds and infinitely more betting options than PROLINE, but it’s still not a good idea to bet with these grey-market sports betting operators. No Canadian oversight or regulation means these sportsbooks can do whatever they want with your money, and many do.
They employ unscrupulous banking techniques to trick Canadian banks into doing business with them, which can make it hard to get ahold of your money. Plus, many are guilty of predatory practices, like delaying withdrawals and offering bonuses for you to cancel withdrawals to hold on to your winnings until you lose those winnings right back to them.
If you think these operations can’t shut the doors and disappear with your money overnight, think again. It happened with offshore online poker operators and it can happen with sportsbooks too. Unfortunately, if it ever does, you’ll have nowhere to turn.
The province estimates people in Ontario are betting somewhere around $500 million a year with various offshore gaming operators. Don’t be one of them. Avoid the inevitable feelings of regret by sticking to PROLINE, or being patient. The federal and provincial governments are working towards bringing safer and more secure sports betting options to you, with the kind of consumer protections only a government body can provide. It’s only a matter of time before those options are here in Ontario.
When is single-game betting coming to Ontario?
The federal government introduced legislation in 2020 that would amend the Criminal Code to lift the ban on single-game sports betting in Canada and give provinces and territories the right to regulate it. It passed its second reading in the House of Commons in February 2021. Now, it’s on to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who will hold hearings on the bill and produce a report with recommendations and amendments.
That report will go back to the House of Commons for a further debate and the legislation’s third reading. If it passes, it will be sent to the Senate, where a similar process will be repeated, the House and Senate will work on further amendments, and the bill will be just a Governor General’s signature away from becoming a law.
That could all happen in 2021. In fact, most industry insiders think Canada will legalize single-game wagering by the beginning of the 2021 NFL season in September.
In the meantime, it’ll be up to the individual provinces and territories to decide if they want to just add single-game wagering to the sports betting lottery products they offer, or introduce a private operator model where privately run sportsbooks will be licensed to operate there. Ontario is choosing the latter. Premier Doug Ford promised to open up the legal online gambling market to competition in his 2020 provincial budget. Now, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, tasked with overseeing the new regulated online gaming market and licensing private third-party online sportsbooks and casinos, is engaging with the public and gaming and social responsibility sectors in an effort to figure out how it will all work.
Of course, the question is: When will single-game wagering come to Ontario? The answer is: As soon as federal legislation passes, the provincial licensing process is complete, and the province’s first privately run licensed online and mobile sportsbooks are ready to go live. Considering the political will exists, and experienced online sportsbook operators from the US and Canada are already preparing to enter the market, all these things than can and likely will happen by the beginning of the 2021 NFL season in September 2021.
Which online sportsbooks are coming to Ontario?
Ontario is currently the only Canadian province opening up its sports betting market to private operators. Here’s a look at who might be coming:
- theScore Bet: Canadian sports media app company turned sportsbook operator in New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa. Founder and CEO John Levy has indicated theScore wants in what he estimates to be a US$3.8 billion to US$5.4 billion market across Canada.
- Torstar: The Canadian newspaper and media corporation behind The Toronto Star announced in March 2021 it intends to launch an online casino and sportsbook betting brand in Ontario in 2021. It’s now waiting for the passage of federal and provincial legislation and approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
- DraftKings: Daily Fantasy Sports leader turned sport betting operator in 12 states says there’s a chance it’ll be taking bets on the Super Bowl in Canada next year.
- FanDuel and FOXBet: FanDuel and FOXBet US sportsbook owner Flutter Entertainment used to run the PlayNow.com online sports betting lottery product in BC and Manitoba. Scientific Games Digital has since taken over, but familiarity with some Canadian sports betting markets suggest they may want in the biggest, right here in Ontario.
- PointsBet: Australian import into the US sports betting market operating in New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, and Michigan. The size of the Ontario sports betting market will make it attractive to PointsBet.
- Caesars: Caesars Casino & Sportsbook operates online in states with Caesars properties: New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There is a Caesars property in Ontario: Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino in Windsor.
- BetMGM: BetMGM Sportsbook operates even in states where there is no MGM property, which makes Ontario a possibility for one of the biggest names in gaming.
- William Hill: The largest sportsbook operator in the US isn’t likely to ignore the size of the Ontario sports betting market.
Online vs retail sportsbooks
Casino Niagara has Multi-Sport Wagering available at the Level 3 Cashier’s Cage. It basically turns the cage into a PROLINE lottery retailer, but effectively turns the casino into a sportsbook of sorts. The Fallsview Market inside Fallsview Casino Resort is also an Ontario lottery retailer, turning the resort and casino into a place where you can watch and bet on sports almost the same way you would inside a traditional sportsbook.
Since at least two of Ontario’s casinos are now offering the only type of sports betting Ontario allows, one can assume they will offer any other type it does as well. That could mean casino sportsbooks offering single-game betting when they legally can or private sportsbook operators partnering with Ontario casinos to launch retail sportsbooks on the property.
Of course, the aim of Ontario’s new legislation is to break up the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s monopoly on online gaming and allow private operators to enter the market online. Though they may ultimately allow these operators to launch retail operations, it sounds like they’ll go online first. However, there are advantages to that for you as a consumer.
Online sportsbooks and sportsbook apps turn your phone into a sportsbook you can access wherever you are inside the province, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. There’s a convenience and freedom to that which retail sportsbooks simply cannot match. Plus, online and mobile sports betting means live, in-game betting. You just can’t get a bet down fast enough at retail sportsbooks to take part in live betting.
What Betting Markets to Expect in Ontario
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s PROLINE lottery products limit betting to minimum two- or three-leg parlays for NFL and NCAA football, NHL hockey, NBA and NCAA basketball, MLB baseball, MLS, European and International soccer, and some car racing.
Single-game betting will bring many more options into the fold. That could mean golf, tennis, boxing, UFC, and other MMA betting markets launching in Ontario. It could also mean the addition of more obscure sports like curling, handball, Australian Rules football, rugby, table tennis, and more. It may even open up special and novelty betting markets including those surrounding US elections, the Oscars, and the Grammys.
Single-game betting also means the minimum two or three leg parlays and the PROLINE product’s forced fixed-spread moneyline wagering will be gone in favour of traditional moneyline, spread, totals, and props betting. Single-game betting should also open up futures markets, live betting markets, including period, quarter, half, and halftime bets, and more parlay options, including teasers.
Legal single-game betting is likely to bring futures betting to Ontario for the first time. That means the chance to bet on the Raptors, Leafs, and Blue Jays to make the postseason, win their division, or even win a title in the upcoming season. In fact, it also means the opportunity to bet on who is going to win it all in any sport, at any time, at odds that are adjusted throughout the year alongside a team or athlete’s true chances of capturing glory.
Plus, it will open up futures betting markets for major awards in most sports. That means you’ll be able to bet on Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu winning the Cy Young, Auston Matthews winning the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Brandon Banks winning CFL Most Outstanding Player honours again, and Raptors star Kyle Lowry to finally get his due in the NBA MVP voting.
The thing about futures markets is that betting is open all year long, from the offseason through the postseason. However, the odds change as each team or athlete’s chances of winning a title or postseason award increase or decrease. That means, for most teams or athletes with a realistic chance of winning, the earlier you get a bet down in the futures market, the better the odds will be. In other words, the earlier you bet on the winner, the bigger the payday you’ll earn.
The NHL, which has two teams in Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, has sports betting partnership and sponsorship deals with MGM, FanDuel, William Hill, and PointsBet. In fact, the NHL now has an equity stake PointsBet as a result of that deal.
Major League Baseball has just one Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and it also has various sponsorship and data sharing agreements with MGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, and FOXBet. The Toronto Raptors are the only NBA team in Canada and the NBA and some of its teams count MGM, FOXBet and FanDuel as official gaming partners. Finally, the CFL has a DFS deal with DraftKings.
Live in-play betting
Ontario’s move to open up online gambling to private operators, coupled with the feds legalizing single-game wagering, is sure to bring privately run online sportsbook apps to the province. Live in-play, or in-game betting, is a big part of what these apps do, giving you the chance to bet on live games at odds that change alongside the action. You can hedge bets, make up for some bad bets before a game, or simply increase your action and interest in any game with live betting.
For the most part, live betting involves betting on the same markets that are available before any game begins. However, live bets are placed at odds that are constantly changing, with the score, clock, and in-the-action circumstances factored in. Plus, different in-game props and period, quarter, and half markets are also available.
As you might infer, the lines move as fast as the game does. That means online and mobile sportsbook apps are really the only way to keep up. Live betting just doesn’t work any other way because you can’t get your bets down fast enough.
Most of the pro sports leagues that operate in Ontario already have partnership and sponsorship deals in place with legal and regulated sportsbook operators south of the border. Looking ahead, it’s logical to think any of these private sportsbook brands entering the Ontario market will look to leverage the league deals they already enjoy and the popularity of Ontario’s pro sports teams.
Ontario online gambling and sports betting law
There is legal online gambling in Ontario, but only through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s official internet gaming site, which is regulated by the province and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. It’s got slots and table games like Blackjack, Baccarat, Poker, Roulette, and even offers lottery ticket sales online. Unfortunately, that does not include tickets for PROLINE OLG sports lottery parlay wagering, which can only be purchased at lottery retailers in Ontario.
The province has admitted the lack of competition and online sports betting options have helped lead to a situation where most online gambling and sports betting in Ontario takes place on unregulated grey market websites with no consumer protection and only limited responsible gaming measures. These sites are illegal in Ontario, but most Ontarians have no idea. That’s why, in the November 2020 Ontario Budget, the government gave the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) the responsibility to conduct, manage and regulate a new online gaming market in Ontario, through a newly created subsidiary. The province’s intention is to open this market up to private operators and establish a model for online gambling in Ontario that is legal, competitive, and safe.
Should the federal government continue moving forward with recent sports betting legislation that would lift the ban on single-game wagering across the country and give each province the right to make its own decisions on the type of legal sports betting it wants, that would mean opening up Ontario’s new online gambling market to private online and mobile sportsbooks, as well as online casinos.
In March 2021, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Finance launched public consultations on the development of Ontario’s new online gambling model.
As a part of this, the Commission has created a discussion paper outlining its preliminary thinking and is seeking feedback on how things like revenue sharing, the types of games to be included, and links to land-based gaming and charitable gaming in Ontario should work. The Commission also began conducting technical consultations with potential private operators in March 2021, looking at operational issues, the creation of regulatory standards, and a responsible gambling program.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has publicly stated its goal is to establish an online gambling market that:
- Reflects consumer preferences
- Helps foster an exciting gaming experience
- Creates competitiveness
- Ensures a high level of market integrity
- Protects consumers; and
- Includes responsible gaming measures
Why you should always bet with a licensed sportsbook
The province is going to break up the Ontario Lottery Corporation’s monopoly on sports betting, but it’s not going to take away the government oversight and consumer protections it provides. Instead, Ontario is going to set up a separate entity under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to regulate sports betting and license privately run online and mobile sportsbooks.
That means the provincial government is going to make sure these sportsbook operators are on the up and up. Plus, you’ll have a government body to turn to if something goes wrong. Illegal offshore online sportsbooks can’t, don’t, and won’t ever offer you anything like that. They’ll disappear with your money, delay withdrawals unnecessarily, and offer bonuses for you to cancel those withdrawals. Sound good? Actually, it’s just a way to keep you from your money until you ultimately lose it. The truth is, these are all things the provincial government will protect you against with licensed operators. Unfortunately, they can’t be there to do the same with offshore online sportsbooks.
Provincial government regulation means security for your money and personal information. Betting with illegal offshore online sportsbooks means you’re putting both at risk. Plus, the convoluted banking functions offshore companies employ to fool Canadian banks into doing business with them make it hard to get your money in and out of these sportsbooks. Add it up and you’ll soon see that betting exclusively with private sportsbook operators licensed by the province is the safe, secure, and simply better option. After all, isn’t sports betting itself enough of a gamble.
US sports betting
The US Supreme Court lifted our neighbour’s own federal ban on sports betting and put the decision on legalizing it into the hands of state lawmakers back in 2018. It’s a lot like what the federal government is doing in Canada in 2021. Some 25 states and the District of Columbia have since legalized sports betting and close to half the US population now lives in states where the same single-game wagering is considered is perfectly legal.
This includes three states that border Ontario: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.
In Michigan, there are retail sportsbooks inside Detroit’s commercial casinos and tribal casinos across the state. Plus, Michigan’s first online and mobile sports betting operations went live in 2021. There are also online and mobile sportsbooks and retail sportsbooks inside commercial casinos and some off-track betting facilities in Pennsylvania. Plus, there are retail sportsbooks inside various commercial casinos and tribal casinos in Upstate New York and a push to legalize online and mobile sports in the Empire State in 2021.