Canada is days away from passing Bill C-218, its sports betting bill that’ll allow single-event wagers. Instead of only allowing parlay bets, bettors will be able to place moneylines, point spreads, over/unders, futures, and other types of wagers. The first province set to legalize sports betting is Ontario, where gray market operators are about to lose all their business to the largest sportsbook operators.
In the middle of all that, theScore is planning on asserting the same market dominance with its sportsbook that it enjoys with its media app. We reached out to Aubrey Levy, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Content at theScore, to understand what Bill C-218 will mean for sports betting, theScore, and all of Canada.
What Bill C-218 Means For Canada
Canada’s sports betting bill is a Royal Assent away from becoming law. However, each province will legalize sports betting separately, similar to how each state chose whether to legalize sports betting in the United States.
“We know a couple provinces have already kind of given guidance as to when they’re contemplating going [live],” said Aubrey Levy. “Most notably, Ontario and B.C.”
But betting won’t look identical in Canada and the United States. Hockey has a rabid following in Canada that the United States lacks. However, sportsbooks can still expect plenty of action on the four major sports.
“I think you’ll still see a ton of action on the NFL, a ton of NBA, some kind of MLB, but you’ll see a prominence around NHL and hockey betting in Canada that just is unrivaled in and certainly materially different than south of the border,” said Levy.
What Bill C-218 Means For The United States
While Canadian sportsbooks have been waiting for this bill, the northeastern United States has been watching with a sense of dread. Major markets like New Jersey and Pennsylvania probably have little to worry about. But states like Vermont and Maine will have to compete with Canada if they choose to legalize sports betting. The impact on U.S. markets is speculative, but Levy has some thoughts on a few possibilities.
“I think there’s certainly a good argument that part of the reason that this [sports betting] got so much momentum in Canada was because you see states like Michigan and other border states in the U.S. coming online and seeing how much potential that exists,” said Levy.
There’s a lot of movement between Detroit and Windsor that could be interesting. But the northeastern United States is where the largest sports betting markets are. As small states try to launch sports betting late in the game, they may struggle to gain traction.
“I don’t know necessarily what that means for the rest of the northeast corridor,” said Levy. “But I think the traction across the border states to date that have legalized in the U.S. have certainly, I would assume, have heavily influenced why this has gotten so much momentum north of the border.”
How theScore Will Ramp Marketing Up
Once sports betting reform passes in Canada, theScore will introduce its sportsbook, theScore Bet. It’ll be a transition period for theScore in Canada. But its operations in the United States have given it a blueprint for acquiring customers in Canada. First, bettors have to know theScore also offers a sportsbook. theScore has used Bill C-218’s passage through the Senate to celebrate.
“We put up some marketing access in markets and billboards around Toronto in our backyard to celebrate this momentous occasion,” said Levy. “And I think what you’ll see from us from now to market open is just a continual progression and buildup as we get closer and closer to [launch].”
That escalation will look different in Canada than it did in the United States. While DraftKings and FanDuel dominate the United States market, theScore rules Canada. That gives it resources to leverage that it wouldn’t consider in the United States.
“Canada’s a different game because theScore is the third-largest sports app across North America,” said Levy. “In Canada, we’re number one. And we have a brand history with our customers in Ontario and across the country going back 20-30 years to our roots in the television business. So, you will see us do some marketing in Ontario that we don’t necessarily do in the U.S.”
For example, theScore doesn’t focus on billboards in the United States. Instead, it ensures that bettors who use theScore also use the theScore Bet. By linking the two apps, theScore converts theScore readers to theScore bettors. By combining aggressive marketing in Canada with a proven customer conversion method, theScore is posed to take an early lead in the new Canadian sports betting market.
Why Ontario Will Be Canada’s Premier Sports Betting Market
Throughout our interview, Ontario came up repeatedly as the site of theScore’s Canadian sportsbook launch. It’s received a disproportionate amount of focus for good reason.
“It looks like it’s [Ontario] gonna be close to the immediately actionable one in that they’re going through commentary now and they’ll be open for commercial framework sports bettors to come in,” said Levy. “We estimate that Ontario could account for just shy of 50%, 40-45% of the overall Canadian gaming market. Like I said, Ontario is a standalone province equates to the fifth-largest state across North America.”
theScore will still launch wherever it makes sense for them to expand. But Ontario is in the crosshairs for theScore and every other major sportsbook operator with the capital to expand internationally.
Canada’s Sports Betting Market Today And After Sports Betting Reform
Since Ontario is the current focus for sportsbook operators, it’s worth understanding what the market looks like now and what it’ll look like after Bill C-218 goes into effect.
“Ontario is an interesting, interesting market,” said Levy. “You have existing gray market operators who are taking action today. You have the Lottery that has its sports product. And then you have all the other European and U.S. players that are watching the market.”
But after Ontario legalizes sports betting and gets its sports betting industry online it’ll be a sports betting hotbed.
“Ontario will be hotly competitive,” said Levy. “I expect that all the major players are gonna show up there.”
What Sets theScore Apart?
With the incoming influx of sportsbook competitors, theScore will need to set itself apart from the competition. However, theScore has a critical differentiator.
“Our foundational belief is that people don’t bet in isolation,” said Levy. “They bet as a component of their fan experience of which consuming content on mobile is a huge piece of. So the fact that we have millions of users who use theScore already, who are highly engaged, that’s a huge leg up for us. And our objective is to not force them to have to go external to find a bet. We bring the bet as close as possible to them as close as possible to their media to make it intuitive to their betting pattern.”
theScore differentiates itself by offering sports news and a sportsbook together. That allows bettors to read sports content, betting tips, and game lines in the same digital ecosystem. Those ecosystem users are critical in the United States.
“We’re not the loudest or the largest marketer in the U.S. but what we’ve seen is over 50% of our betting user base is an ecosystem user,” said Levy. “They’re using both of our products, regardless of whether we acquired them from theScore or theScore Bet or brought them in externally.”
Although marketing will look different in Canada, the conversion process will likely look similar.
Barstool Sportsbook And theScore
Some bettors may see similarities between Barstool Sportsbook and theScore. Both sportsbooks combine sports media and sports betting. But there are important differences in how they approach their customers.
“Their media game is a little bit different than our media game,” said Levy. “They are very influencer-led, heavily content eld, run a lot of distributive content channels. We’re heavily product-led. Our app is the nexus of our universe.”
Barstool Sportsbook attracts bettors through Barstool Sports content spread across the internet. However, theScore focuses on getting bettors to switch between its two apps instead of reeling bettors in from across social media platforms. They’re two different media styles. Although, Aubrey Levy didn’t want us to think theScore’s reach was small.
“Of course we have a very large social footprint, too. Don’t get me wrong. We reach around 90 million people a month,” said Levy.
What’s Next For theScore?
Right now, theScore is focused on Canadian sports betting and Ontario’s emerging market in particular. However, the other Canadian provinces are watching Ontario’s rollout to see what they want to keep and discard.
“Most of my headspace these days is on the current states, some states that we’re looking at, and making sure that we are geared up and ready to rock when Ontario opens on day one,” said Levy.
Canada is about to fundamentally change its sports betting laws to create a competitive market environment for sportsbooks. They’ve seen states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey build successful sports betting industries, and the provinces want in on the action. A new era of iGaming is dawning in Canada. It’ll be a worthy competitor to the northern states and a welcome change to frustrated hockey fans across the provinces.