JD McNamara: Better Collective is planting its flag in the Canadian market
Ontario is quickly becoming a powerhouse in and of itself as betting companies look to make their mark on the Canadian market.
JD McNamara (pictured), Country Director at Better Collective, takes this month’s spotlight piece to dissect the growing opportunities in Canada and the need for a more personalised approach to this newly regulated market.
SBC: Over the past three-years Better Collective has established its North American publishing network. How important will the Canadian market be to its long-term regional growth plans?
At Better Collective, we view the Canadian market as an exciting part of our long-term growth plans for North America. Canada’s most populous province, Ontario (~15 million people), would be the fifth largest US state; its most populous city, Toronto (~2.6 million people), would put it right alongside Chicago as the third largest city in the US. These markets, along with the rest of Canada as it regulates, will be an integral part of our activities in the region.
SBC: You’ve acquired Canada Sports Betting recently – what made it such a good fit for the Better Collective business?
Canada Sports Betting is a good fit for Better Collective because it is exactly the type of site BC thrives in operating and growing – a site that educates bettors and empowers them to make well-informed decisions.
Secondly, it has a really strong foothold in the Canadian market, which we are entering in earnest. It really is a great match for us and we’re excited to have CSB in the BC portfolio as our Canadian flagship.
SBC: How do you intend to use the acquisition, along with support from your existing North American business, to grow your foothold in Canada?
As mentioned, we intend to use CSB as our flagship Canadian brand. Our goal is to educate and inform prospective sports bettors in the regulated Ontario market and the rest of Canada, where we’ll also track and monitor regulatory activity. We aim to position Canada Sports Betting as a place where both media and consumers come for insights and perspective on the market, with the ultimate goal of becoming a more visible brand in Canada.
SBC: What do you think are the key differences between American and Canadian sports bettors and how important is it to tailor your approach to meeting their needs?
We know hockey over-indexes among the Canadian general population vs Americans, so we expect one of the main differences in Canada will be more people betting on hockey/the NHL than in the US. Beyond that, we want to stress our ability to cater to our audience in Canada. We’re a Canadian site, with a Canadian domain, which is being run from Canada by a core team of Canadian employees. We’re truly local, and we understand the Canadian sports betting scene.
SBC: As an established publisher, will Better Collective develop any organic (non M&A) portals for the Canadian sportsbook/igaming market?
In addition to CSB, we’re also working on Canada-facing content on our US properties (Action Network, RotoGrinders, Vegas Insider and Sports Handle). Our mid to long term plans will likely depend on how the Canadian market develops and, of course, our performance, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!
SBC: What are your initial thoughts on Ontario now that it’s open for business?
Ontario’s market launched at a fun time on the sports calendar as we’re just getting into the start of the NHL playoffs, so it’s been quite exciting! As a huge sports fan and a casual bettor, it’s been great to try out the multitude of new sportsbooks.
In terms of the regulatory aspects of the launch, I think the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has made it needlessly difficult on much of the market. There is still a lot that’s unclear about the regulations in Ontario, including the real motivations behind certain stringent rules the AGCO has put in place.
SBC: Building your network within Ontario, are you concerned with regards to black-market operators continuing to target local audiences. Will the market have a clear disparity between the regulated and unlicensed offering?
This is largely still to be determined but we’re not overly concerned with the black market operators continuing to target local audiences at the moment. However, we think it is important to note that the various ad restrictions and lack of clarity around license pending operators may lead unknowing or new bettors to offshore sites that do not work under a framework protecting the bettors.
I’m hopeful that as guidance from AGCO is clarified, the market will settle and allow affiliates to play an active role in helping new bettors make responsible gaming decisions.