Few choices for betting on Canada’s second-most-popular winter sport

January 5, 2023 10:26 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
January 5, 2023 10:26 AM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports

Now that the holidays are over, the focus among many Canadian sports fans turns to curling, a sport that is immensely popular north of the border. According to a University of Waterloo study, ins 2020, the size of the market, those who watched and participated in the sport, was just over seven million, nearly 20 percent of the population.

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Curling is Canada’s second-most-popular winter sport. Yet no sportsbook other than PointsBet Canada is offering it to bettors in Canada. Among several others contacted by CDC Gaming Reports, only the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s Proline sportsbook said they were “working” to add it.

“Stay tuned,” a spokesperson added.

A spokesperson from FanDuel noted, “FanDuel has offered betting on curling in the past and continues to look at the sport on an event-by-event basis.”

Unibet announced a partnership with the Northern Ontario Curling Association just before Christmas, a deal that will allow for unprecedented streaming of every game, on every sheet of ice, to curling fans around the province. But there will be no betting on the event; curling isn’t currently an option for any operator on the Kambi platform, including Unibet. We were told the sponsorship wasn’t done to get fans to bet on curling. It was to promote the sport at an amateur level, while also being a branding exercise for Unibet.

PointsBet Canada, on the other hand, sees nothing but opportunity. The operator is the exclusive sports betting partner of Curling Canada, the national governing body, a deal that was signed in October 2021, well before the competitive market in Ontario opened up.

“We believe that curling is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the innovation boom we’re seeing across the North American sports betting sector,” PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky said. “Gaming legalization and regulation have brought digital fan engagement to the forefront, and what sport has more opportunity to tap into than a sport that 30 percent-plus of Canadians watch on broadcast? Curling frequently has better TV ratings than many of the other major North American sports, but gamblers have just begun to engage. Due to the scheduling of its tournaments, curling frequently finds itself as the lone live North American professional sport on television and it’s a sport built for live betting.”

Indeed, that’s why it’s a little surprising that the sport hasn’t taken off on the betting front as yet.

“Curling is a game of strategy and athleticism where our elite players create stunning displays of both,” Curling Canada chief executive officer Katherine Henderson said when their PointsBet Canada deal was announced.  “The situation changes constantly, things are decided in centimetres, and as tournaments progress, momentum and excitement build. Fans are incredibly invested in the teams they cheer for.  All of this makes for an incredibly rich sport for fans in which they crave engagement and opportunities to think like their favourite athletes. PointsBet can add to all of this in a creative and fun way.”

That’s what PointsBet is banking on: getting themselves well entrenched with curling fans as the sport builds on the betting front. The company is working closely with Curling Canada to bring new and exclusive pre-match and in-play markets to the ice for fans.

Company CEO Scott Vanderwel has said that it’s important that PointsBet partner with sports organizations “deeply rooted in our nation’s identity.” That’s curling in Canada, no doubt.

A busy calendar of curling events is fast approaching. The 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (where the top women’s teams in the country compete for the Canadian women’s championship) will be held Feb. 17-26 at Sandman Centre in Kamloops, B.C. The 2023 Tim Hortons Brier (top men’s teams compete for the men’s title) will be held March 3-12 at the Budweiser Gardens in London. The 2023 World Men’s Curling Championship will be held April 1-9 at TD Place in Ottawa.

Then there’s the PointsBet Invitational tournament, with a scheduled date and place to be determined for 2023. The inaugural PointsBet Invitational was held last September at Willie O’Ree Place in Fredericton, NB. The event featured 32 Canadian teams, the first major event of the 2022-23 “Season of Champions” and the first event of the quadrennial that leads to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

PointsBet Canada is offering curling betting across the three core markets – spread, total, and moneyline – for all Curling Canada majors and the Grand Slam of Curling. They’ll also offer live betting on some of the featured matchups during those events.

“All of that screams opportunity to PointsBet, while also providing an innovative new way to attract younger eyeballs to Curling Canada,” Sulsky added. “With two major curling events taking place in Ontario in Q1 of 2023 – The Brier in London and the World Championships in Ottawa – we are eagerly anticipating the added excitement and engagement legal sports betting can bring to the awesome on-ice drama every curling event already delivers.”