- The Toronto Blue Jays have signed on theScore Bet to become the ‘Exclusive Gaming Partner’ of the MLB team.
- Ontario has launched their regulated and competitive iGaming market though there’s been little movement in that direction by the other Canadian provinces.
- Ontario’s sports betting market should be one of the most competitive–and most lucrative–ecosystems found anywhere in the world.
FanDuel has been in the news of late for a couple of big promotional deals in the newly open Ontario sports betting market. Within the span of a few days, FanDuel partnered up with Canadian sports network TSN and Toronto pro sports monolith Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment(MLSE). The MLSE deal is a big one as it gives FanDuel promotional access to the NHL Maple Leafs, the AHL Marlies, the CFL Argonauts, the NBA Raptors and the MLS Toronto FC.
FanDuel’s deal with MLSE doesn’t appear to be an exclusive and there’s every reason to think that they’ll be the first of multiple partners for all or some of the aforementioned teams. They’re not the only ones looking to establish themselves in Canada’s largest province–late last week, the Major League Baseball (MLB) Toronto Blue Jays and theScore Bet announced a ten year exclusive partnership deal. The deal makes Penn National owned/Toronto born theScore Bet the ‘Official and Exclusive Gaming Partner’ of the Blue Jays. The press release announcing the deal describes it as ‘the first of its kind in the country’, which presumably refers to the ‘exclusivity’ component.
Here’s what the release had to say about the partnership:
The historic partnership represents the Blue Jays’ first gaming partner and theScore Bet’s first professional team sponsorship. Teaming up is a natural collaboration for the two Toronto-based organizations with Ontario recently opening its market for sports betting and iGaming to regulated private operators on April 4, 2022.
The deal grants theScore Bet, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming (Nasdaq: PENN), exclusive national marketing rights that extend across all gaming categories including sports betting, casino, online casino, and fantasy sports. The Blue Jays and theScore Bet also plan to create a branded, premium, 365-days-a-year, flagship sports bar and restaurant at Rogers Centre that will serve as an entertainment hub and destination for fans.
The partnership also delivers new and exclusive in-stadium and digital offerings to Blue Jays fans and theScore Bet users through various sponsorship elements, including two immersive premium seating sections on the baselines, extensive in-stadium branding, in-game features, a host of team-related experiences, and designates theScore Bet as the presenting partner of the Jays Care 50/50 program.
A recent Bleacher Report article ranked the Blue Jays as the #8 most popular sports team in Canada behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions. Worth noting that these rankings are solely the opinion of the author and the rankings reflect the national attitude of these teams. By way of comparison, the top teams in the US would like include the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Cowboys, etc.
Obviously, this is a subjective assessment and is somewhat contradicted by other rankings of the most popular sports in Canada. One list, for example, lists hockey as the top sport (obviously) followed by lacrosse, basketball and baseball. Another ranking uses Google searches–this produces an interesting result as the Blue Jays have by far the most average monthly searches of any Canadian sports team. The rest of the top ten are all NHL teams plus the NBA Raptors. Immediately, you can see a few big methodological issues. Toronto is the biggest city in Canada, so its obvious that their teams would get plenty of searches. The dominance of the NHL isn’t surprising but I’m not sure that the Blue Jays’ search result domination is a reflection of their popularity. Baseball has twice as many regular season games as hockey and basketball–it’s logical to assume that search interest is higher before and after games.
There’s really not a perfect metric to assess popularity. Another article addresses team valuations in the Toronto market but the results are clearly correlated to the overall value of franchises in the individual leagues. The exception is the Maple Leafs–in Forbes Magazine’s 2021 ranking they far exceed the average value of all NHL teams ($865 million USD) at $1.8 billion USD, second only to the New York Rangers ($2 million USD). There’s also a question of how you determine a team’s overall value–another ranking’s methodology puts the average value of a NHL team at $934 billion, the Maple Leafs’ value at $2 billion and the Rangers’ at $1.8 billion.
The salient point may be that due to the market domination of Maple Leaf Sports, the Blue Jays’ status as ‘independently owned’ is more important than metrics. It’s doubtful that MLSE would do a deal offering exclusivity for as long of a term as the Jays were willing to do with theScore Bet. Mark Shapiro, President & CEO, Toronto Blue Jays, pointed to theScore’s Canadian roots in his comments on the partnership:
“The fan experience is evolving and this monumental partnership with theScore Bet offers compelling new ways for sports enthusiasts to be a part of the game. We are excited to be partnering with a Canadian company that operates at the highest level of the industry and understands our role in Toronto and Canada, to bring baseball to more fans nationwide.”
John Levy, CEO, theScore Bet, called the relationship with the Jays ‘a foundational partnership’:
“theScore Bet is proudly Canadian and we are thrilled to make Canada’s baseball team our long-term partner. This is a foundational partnership with a team and organization that is deeply embedded in our country’s sports culture. Teaming with the Blue Jays opens up exciting new exclusive marketing opportunities and brings theScore Bet even closer to a huge audience of passionate and engaged fans, both on-site at Rogers Centre and online across our platforms. With our combined loyal audiences and brand affinity in Ontario, we believe this deal will establish a new standard for team and gaming operator relationships as we pioneer innovative ways to experience and interact with the game.”
“We look forward to working with Mark, the partnerships team and the entire Blue Jays organization on what we know will be a mutually rewarding and successful partnership for many years to come.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the sponsorship market dynamics in Ontario change when the revenue figures start to come in.