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FanDuel, PokerStars Sign Promotional Partnership With Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • FanDuel and PokerStars have announced a partnership agreement with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE).
  • MLSE owns the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, NBA Toronto Raptors, MLS Toronto FC, CFL Toronto Argonauts and the AHL Toronto Marlies.
  • This is the first Flutter Entertainment deal in North America to feature multiple brands.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we reported on PointsBet Canada signing a promotional partnership with the Ottawa REDBLACKS (yep, all caps) of the Canadian Football League (CFL). That also led us to speculate about the sports betting promotional future of the other two Ontario based CFL teams aka the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts. Here’s what we said about the Argos:

The Toronto Argonauts are owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the conglomerate that also owns the NHL Maple Leafs, the NBA Raptors, the MLS Toronto FC among other sports properties in the Queen City (or the 6ix, for you younger fans). That puts them in a position to command a hefty payday for a sponsorship deal that would cover multiple teams in multiple sports. It won’t be cheap to join this sponsor roster!

After which we posted this screenshot from the MLSE corporate website:

The Tiger-Cats are still ‘in play’ but the biggest domino in Ontario professional sports fell today. Well, sort of–there’s nothing in the press release about the deal between Flutter PLC and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment being an exclusive. I know if *I* was running the show at MLSE I wouldn’t do any type of exclusive sports betting deals. Given their power in the market and the potential of the Ontario gaming ecosystem I’d sign on as many ‘official sports betting partners’ as I could….but I digress. Here’s the story:

PokerStars and FanDuel Sportsbook, part of Flutter Entertainment, today announced their partnership together with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). The strategic partnership sees the FanDuel Sportsbook designated as an official sports betting partner, and PokerStars as an official gaming partner. The two will unite in this major deal to offer fans and gaming players in Ontario a powerful combination of entertainment through leading sports, poker and casino gaming experiences. The launch of PokerStars is subject to successful registration by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and execution of an Operating Agreement with iGaming Ontario.

This partnership, a first of its kind for Flutter Entertainment plc in North America, offers FanDuel and PokerStars an opportunity to showcase their brands to some of the most loyal sports fans in Canada. In addition to the use of MLSE team marks in advertising and marketing, FanDuel Sportsbook, PokerStars Casino and PokerStars will be featured prominently throughout Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors games including rink board and on-court signage. The partnership will also allow FanDuel Sportsbook and PokerStars to collaborate on marketing integrations with all of MLSE’s teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Marlies.

So there you go….nothing suggests its an exclusive meaning MLSE can broker similar partnerships with any sportsbook that can meet what is obviously a considerable price. Not that whatever they’re charging isn’t worth it–in one shot, FanDuel and the other Flutter properties get every professional sports team in the Toronto metro area with the exception of the MLB Blue Jays and lower profile pro teams like the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Toronto Rock. It wouldn’t surprise me if some enterprising sportsbook signed a deal with the AHL Ontario Reign not realizing that they play in Ontario, California (it’s near Upland, Claremont, Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga).

Jordan Vader, Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, MLSE is happy to be promoting Flutter’s brands though he clearly emphasizes that his organization is looking for *partners* as in plural:

“We are thrilled to partner with Flutter Entertainment, a global leader and one of the most trusted operators in the sports betting industry. As the Online Gaming markets open in Ontario, we have worked hard to find partners who aligned with both our vision for innovation, and our values including a shared commitment to responsible gaming. We look forward to working with Flutter and providing a platform for them to engage with the millions of 19+ Ontario residents who are fans of our teams.”

 Dale Hooper, General Manager, FanDuel Canada knows that MLSE is a serious player in the province:

“The Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC are pioneering franchises and major pillars in Canadian sports culture,” said Dale Hooper, General Manager, FanDuel Canada. “As we bring FanDuel to Ontario, we want to collaborate with globally recognized enterprises like MLSE to bring unique content experiences to some of Canada’s most dedicated sports fans.”

Special Agent Dale Cooper

I’m going to preemptively apologize to Mr. Hooper since I know that I’ll misidentify him as Dale *Cooper* (aka Kyle MacLachlan’s iconic character from Twin Peaks) sooner rather than later. Speaking of which, Dale Hooper (from FanDuel) has had one seriously interesting career–he’s now the head of FanDuel Canada and before that was president of a cannabis industry compliance consulting firm called (cleverly enough) ‘Cannabis Compliance, Inc’ which would eventually be acquired by Deloitte Canada. Prior to that, he was the brand manager at Canadian media giant Rogers Communication. Maybe he’ll see this and take me to lunch next time I’m in Toronto.

Also weighing in with a quote is Tom Warren, PokerStars Marketing Director. His brand will be launching in Ontario in the near future:

“We have epic plans for our community in Canada, and are excitedly looking forward to creating some incredible experiences in our birth country, when we launch very soon. Partnering with MLSE gives us the opportunity to reach passionate fans across Ontario with a wide remit of poker and casino, heighten experiences wherever we can, and be a part of some major winning moments.”

If you’re wondering about his reference to Canada being the ‘birth country’ of PokerStars you probably remember their origins in the early 2000s in Costa Rica and the Isle of Man. The company was founded by a couple of gentlemen named Isai Scheinberg and Mark Scheinberg–they moved to Toronto from Israel in the mid 1980s. PokerStars launched their beta site (ironically enough) on September 11, 2001 before going live with real money wagering on December 12. As I remember it, they were originally in Costa Rica but moved to the Isle of Man several years after they launched due to a more favorable tax situation there.

I’m generally skeptical of promotional partnerships with sports teams/leagues but this one makes a lot of sense. They sew up the highest profile teams in Toronto and since they get plenty of exposure elsewhere in Canada it gets their brand recognized in other provinces that might be setting up competitive gaming markets in the future.

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