While Ontario has led the way in opening its legal online betting market to private competition, sparking an advertising blitz that's ruffled the feathers of regulators and raised concerns among addiction experts, Atlantic Canada has the highest portion of adults registered to place bets.
That's according to a recent Ipsos poll suggesting more Canadians than ever are wagering online. The data was collected between May 10 and May 13, from 2,001 Canadians over 18 years old.
Federal lawmakers gave the provinces and territories authority to regulate new forms of gambling last summer, following the passage of Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.
While most regions have opted to give exclusive control to province-run lottery schemes, Ontario opened its market to private competition. The decision has prompted a flurry of advertising, celebrity endorsement, and media deals involving some of the biggest names in the global gambling industry. At the same time, illegal and offshore betting websites, which have served gamblers for years, continue to grab a sizeable share of the Canadian market.
Despite the fanfare and open legal competition in Ontario, Ipsos found the Atlantic region, where the Atlantic Lottery Corporation controls the legal online betting action, had the highest proportion of Canadian adults registered to play, at 41 per cent.
One-third (33 per cent) of Ontario adults that participated in the poll reported being registered on at least one online betting platform. That puts the province slightly above the national average of 30 per cent.
British Columbia, another province where the government has exclusive control, tied Ontario at 33 per cent, followed by Quebec at 26 per cent, Alberta at 24 per cent, and Manitoba/Saskatchewan at 22 per cent.
In Ontario, Ipsos found the percentage of Ontarians who have signed up with private gambling operators is nearly equal to the percentage who have registered with the government-run OLG.ca platform, at 25 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively. That trend held across all other regions except Quebec, where Lottoquebec.com booked a slight lead.
In dollar terms, Canadians were found to prefer private operators over government platforms, reporting about 44 per cent of wagers go to one of the provincial government sites, while the rest (56 per cent) go to private operator platforms. In Ontario, the only province where private competition is legal, 43 per cent of the reported spend went to the government's OLG.ca.
Earlier this year, a poll by Deloitte Canada found only 19 per cent of respondents were aware new forms of gambling had become legal in Canada. Ipsos determined 26 per cent of Canadians were aware that Ontario is open to private competition, but that figure climbed to 41 per cent among Ontarians.
Deloitte predicted that sports book operators in Ontario, and provinces that potentially follow its lead in embracing competition, could witness significant "churn" as customers test out new apps and platforms, and look to take advantage of promotional offers.
Ipsos found the average Canadian who gambles online is registered with three or four websites (3.6 is the national average). Atlantic Canada leads the country on the number of websites used, at an average of 4.7. Manitoba/Saskatchewan was the lowest at 2.7.
Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.