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Ontario Lottery Named NHL’s First Official Canadian Sportsbook Partner

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has announced a partnership deal with the National Hockey League (NHL).
  • The OLG becomes an ‘Official Sports Betting Partner’ of the NHL–the league’s first in Canada.
  • The OLG operates the PROLINE sports betting platform online and at in-store lottery retailers.

Ontario’s sports betting ecosystem looks insanely good from this vantage point. There’s not much in their regulatory framework that isn’t the way it should be to maximize the upside potential of sports betting for players, sportsbooks and the provincial government. One of their most impressive accomplishments is to a) get the provincial lottery involved and b) turn it into a net positive, not a liability.

This is a completely alien concept for US sports bettors. In the US, getting the lottery involved in sports betting is the worst possible thing that can happen–at least for sports bettors unfortunate enough to live in such a state. It’s like lighting a match near a gas tank–nothing good can come of it. Best case scenario–the lottery will assume a quasi-oversight role similar to what a gaming commission does in a property run state. What could go wrong with having sports betting regulated by a bureaucracy that knows absolutely nothing about it? The worst case scenario is unfortunately the most common–the lottery run sports betting monopoly. This is bad for everyone–players in particular–and creates significantly less revenue for the state than a competitive model.

Ontario, on the other hand, figured out a workable solution to include the provincial lottery into the sports betting mix without screwing the whole thing up. It’s a pretty simple solution–run a competitive, private sector sports betting industry with the lottery involved. In other words, the lottery is forced to get their act together since they’re competing against companies that actually know what they’re doing. Instead of a lottery situation run by an incompetent and inexperienced bureaucracy, Ontario sports bettors instead get another ‘out’. The lottery run Proline+ website looks pretty good:

The lottery got some preferential treatment. For one thing, they’ll have a monopoly on retail sports betting for the time being at 10,000 lottery locations across the province. That’s worth something, but with the majority of betting taking place online that’s not a huge deal. The lottery did get ‘first mover status’–they were able to launch single event sports betting on February 1, 2022. That allowed them to book the Super Bowl with no competition. That doesn’t change the reality that when the competitive online sports betting market goes live on April 4, they’ll have to earn business from their players. For those of us in the US, that’s a novel concept bordering on incomprehensible.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is doing what sportsbooks in the US have done to give themselves some credebility–they’re entering into partnerships with sports organizations. Last month, they announced a deal with the National Football League (NFL) that gave them the title of ‘official retail lottery and sportsbook partner.’ They’ve just announced another partnership that is likely a bigger deal for their audience–a partnership with the National Hockey League. The OLG’s Proline+ brand is now an ‘Official Sports Betting Partner’ of the NHL–the first such partnership in Canada.

In addition to the official sounding designation, the OLG gets some other perks–use of the league’s official logos, cross promotion across digital and social channels and other co-branded promotions. The Proline+ brand was the presenting sponsor of the pregame show at the 2022 Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario.

Dave Pridmore, OLG’s Chief Digital and Strategy Officer, is pleased with the partnership deal:

“The OLG-NHL deal is a big win for our valued sports bettors, A partnership with a world-class organization like the NHL will help complement the ultimate sports betting experience for hockey fans on PROLINE+ and PROLINE at retail, where our players can execute legal single-event wagers and other unique bets on a sport they love.”

 Kyle McMann, NHL Senior Vice President, North American Business Development, had these comments about the OLG and Proline+:

“As we prepare to stage our sixth NHL Heritage Classic this weekend in Hamilton, we’re thrilled to announce PROLINE+ by OLG as the NHL’s first Official Sports Betting Partner in Canada. As a leading gaming entertainment operator for more than four decades with an excellent track record in Ontario, OLG is an ideal partner for the NHL to begin our transformative entry into this space in Canada and to further engage our avid Canadian fan base.”

I remain unconvinced that partnerships such as the one the OLG announced with the NHL (or NFL for that matter) do anything to ‘move the needle’. They probably help with brand awareness for companies just entering a market but as the quote above indicates that’s definitely not the case with the OLG. Since we know that several brands that already have a partnership with the NHL are entering the Ontario market, the OLG doesn’t even get any exclusivity. Already heading to Ontario are PointsBet, DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook–all ‘Official Sportsbook Partners’ of the NHL. Betway is either already heading to Ontario or very likely to do so, depending on the source. That leaves only BallyBet–the rest of the NHL’s USA sportsbook partners are definitely or likely Ontario bound.

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