Single-event sports betting is the new cannabis. Sportsbooks are setting up shop – Toronto Star
Dale Hooper has some experience with helping companies make the transition to a legal landscape and surviving the somewhat painful, cumbersome regulatory process.
Two years ago, Hooper was leading a cannabis compliance in Mississauga when it was bought by Deloitte Canada following the Canadian government’s passing of the Cannabis Act. Fast forward to the beginning of 2021, when a report produced by Deloitte on opportunities around a legal single-event sports wagering industry in Canada caught his attention.
At the end of August, almost three years after the federal government blessed the legalization of cannabis, it gave the green light to the provinces to licence and regulate single-event wagering and online gaming.
Next week, Hooper will be officially introduced as general manager of the new Canadian business of FanDuel, the North American online sportsbook and daily fantasy sports giant.
“Deloitte published that white paper earlier this year, I started speaking with a few people and I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be fun,’” Hooper, who started his new role this week, told the Star on Thursday afternoon before jumping on a flight to his native New Brunswick.
“It reminds me of cannabis. You’re taking something that was once illegal and you’re making it legal. That’s awesome. It’s good for consumers.”
Hooper’s time in the legal cannabis business (“When I got in three years ago, it was moving at the speed of sound”) and his background in marketing and partnerships will be extremely useful in his new role. While it remains unclear when the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will allow sportsbook operators to begin offering single-event betting, that hasn’t stopped interested players from setting up shop as they prepare to open their digital doors.
NorthStar Gaming announced Tuesday that former Panasonic North America chair and chief executive officer Michael Moskowitz was coming on board as its CEO and founding partner. A partner of Torstar Corporation, which owns the Star, NorthStar Gaming plans to launch an online betting brand and sportsbook in Ontario as soon as they’re permitted.
PointsBet’s Canadian business — which opened this spring — has announced a couple of partnerships, including a multi-year agreement with Curling Canada to be its official betting partner and title sponsor for a new Season of Champions event, beginning next year. The deal gives PointsBet Canada exclusivity when it comes to advertising on the more than 300 hours of TSN broadcasts of Curling Canada competitions each season for the next five years.
“There are a lot of people rushing in here,” said Hooper, who as chief brand officer of Rogers Communications spearheaded the company’s marketing plan for hockey after it landed the 12-year, $5.2-billion (U.S.) deal for NHL broadcast and multimedia rights starting in 2014.
“Who’s going to bring the right technology, have the right focus on responsible gaming? Our focus is to do what’s right for Canadian sports fans.”
That won’t come cheaply, although FanDuel hasn’t been shy about spending to acquire customers for its sportsbooks and daily fantasy products in the United States. FanDuel spent more than $420 million on marketing in the first half of 2021, and joined sportsbook and daily fantasy rival DraftKings and Caesars as the NFL’s first sports betting partners. The company opened a sportsbook at Meadowlands racetrack in September, helping New Jersey leapfrog Las Vegas in October and become the sports betting leader in the U.S. with a record $803 million wagered.
“Given that there is a finite supply of sports team partnerships, sportsbooks think not only about the value they gain via a partnership, but also about the value they deny to a competitor,” said Chris Grove, a partner at Eilers and Krejcik Gaming, referring to the extensive and expensive deal-making among leagues, teams and sports betting companies.
Before the NHL regular season opened Tuesday, DraftKings announced its new deal with the league as an official betting, daily fantasy and iGaming partner, and the exclusive sportsbook and daily fantasy provider for Turner Network’s NHL coverage. A first-time national rightsholder in the U.S., Turner plans to integrate DraftKings content into its NHL broadcasts.
DraftKings and FanDuel are among the NHL’s seven sports betting partners in the U.S. since 2018 when the country’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on single-event wagering. The companies are believed to be the leading contenders for partnerships with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Rogers Sports & Media and Bell Media. The successful bidder will have expansive reach to Ontario sports fans — and potential bettors — in North America’s fifth-largest market.
“I’m only in day three,” Hooper said with a grin, adding, “We’re going to do what’s right for the business. We’ll talk when we have things to talk about.”
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