With the launch of iGaming coming to Ontario in April, can you explain theScore’s approach to the launch?
Ontario is our backyard and this launch is special for us. We have a brand recognition and a user base here that is huge when compared to our operations south of the border. So as we think about Ontario, it is obviously hugely exciting. Our strategy is going to be to take all the things we have learnt during three years of operations in the US, both from a product and integration perspective and from a performance marketing perspective, and then layer in some additional marketing tactics that we don’t really implement in the US. We will be making a much more concerted and aggressive push in Ontario. TheScore will use brand work and partnerships such as the ones we have with Golf Canada and Canlan. Overall, it is going to combine all of our learning from south of the border, supported by a robust multichannel marketing and partnership program.
You are going to be one of the first operators to launch in the region; can you give our readers an overview of what the process to gaining regulatory approval was like?
We have followed this process throughout and have been long-time proponents of the legalization of sports betting and iGaming. Once the market was green-lit, we worked closely with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to prepare. The whole process has been a very collaborative one, especially with the AGCO, who have been great to work with. Now, we are in the home stretch and are looking forward to finally opening the doors on day one.
Do you think Canada will see a similar explosion in iGaming and sports betting as what we have seen in the US?
Ontario is an interesting market; from a size perspective it’s the equivalent of the fifth-largest state in the US. And in a lot of ways it is going to be the most commercially friendly. With that being said, Ontario is also taking the perspective to put more responsible gaming parameters on the type of marketing you can do there. This is a direct attempt to try and prevent some of the marketing that has been happening in the US, where you just get huge sign-up offers all the time. What you will see is that the province will be very competitive but will lend itself to operators who have differentiated offerings. It will be very different to the US market for sure.
One of the interesting things about theScore is your transition from media into the sports betting space; how did that process occur?
This ties into the idea of a differentiated approach. TheScore is a sports media company first and foremost. For us, betting does not happen in isolation; it is a component of the sports media experience. It is no different from going to the bar or going to games. So when this opportunity came about, we chose to offer the wagering product ourselves by becoming the operator. This thesis drove us down a path that meant we had to operate and led us to build our own technology stack. Hopefully, this will allow us to enter Ontario with a different experience, one that the users on our media app enjoy, and allows for a seamless and easy betting experience.
Finally, what is your take on the many betting brands trying to move into the media space?
I think it is no small task to build a loyal media footprint. On the surface of it you think you can write some articles and offer media feeds; but if you look at the leaders in the sports media space, it is not just something you can buy your way into. Large spending on marketing does not guarantee success. Everybody in the sports betting business wants to move closer to the sports media industry because they understand the value of media. Media is so closely tied to how people want to bet. You can’t treat media as an add on; it is a beast. Of course, it’s not impossible for operators to do it well but if you build it just to supplement a sportsbook, you might acquire some users but you may never get to the place where you’re scratching that media itch.