Ontario Online Gaming Begins with Toronto’s Rivalry Among First to Start

Posted on: April 4, 2022, 12:32h. 

Last updated on: April 4, 2022, 01:09h.

Monday is the start of a new era in Canadian Gaming. It’s the first day commercial gaming operators can launch their sports betting and iGaming apps in Ontario, Canada’s most-populous province.

Ads for Rivalry Corp.’s online sportsbook are posted on a Toronto street. The Toronto-based gaming company was one of 13 operators approved to launch on Monday, the first day for legal commercial iGaming and sports betting in the Canadian province. (Image: Rivalry)

According to iGaming Ontario, 13 operators have been approved to launch sportsbooks, online casinos, or poker sites. While that list includes some high-profile US and European brands, there are also a couple of firms with Canadian roots that are ready for the advent of legal online gaming in their home and native land.

One of those is Rivalry Corp., a Toronto-based operator that’s been around since 2016, but has made its bones in different online gaming circles. Think more action on CS:GO and MLBB (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, for those not in the know) than wagering on the CFL or MLB.

Many typically associate sports wagering with attracting younger bettors than casinos. However, Rivalry CEO Steven Salz said his company’s operations skew even younger that that.

To use a US kind of analogy, it’s like Robinhood vs. Charles Schwab if you’re an investor,” said Salz, who is also a Rivalry co-founder, in an interview with Casino.org.

Its average customer is at least 10 years younger than more traditional sports betting apps. Because of that, Salz said Rivalry “specifically built” its platform and designed its user experience for the under-30 crowd.

In Ontario, regulators set the minimum age to wager on sports betting or iGaming sites at 19. While some US states allow 18-year-olds to bet, in most states the age requirement is set at 21.

Influencing Customer Acquisition

In the US, one of the issues facing sports betting operators is the cost to acquire customers. The top apps in the States still show losses on their earnings sheet as they look to attract bettors in new markets with large matching bonuses and free bets.

Rivalry offers bonuses – it currently matches first deposits at up to $100 – but Salz said that’s not a primary tactic. Instead, it’s a tool meant to complement conversion efforts.

Much of their acquisition efforts focus on social media. Salz told Casino.org that other brands targeting younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers focus their efforts. That includes leveraging more than two dozen social media properties and working with 150 “brand partners,” which includes influencers who post on Instagram, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube.

And influencers in the gaming realm, Salz said, jump at the chance to work with the brand, comparing Rivalry’s reach in eSports to what Red Bull did for extreme athletes.

“We do measured engagement monthly than the aggregate of all of our peers,” Salz said.

As it engages online, Rivalry is also seeing its betting traffic increase as well. The public company, whose shares trade on the TSX Venture Exchange, has reported its month-over-month handle growing by more than 20% since the start of last year.

US Not a Priority Market

Because Rivalry skews younger, Salz said in an interview in late February that the eSports market made up 85 to 90% of their online wagering handle. The company has held a license in the Isle of Man for four years.

After launching in Australia and now in Ontario, he believes that will get diluted as they take on more traditional sports betting customers. By next year, traditional sports will probably make up 40% of their business.

However, Salz said the company has no intention of abandoning its core audience. The under-30 market represents 40% of the world’s population.

To that end, he said Rivalry doesn’t see the US market the same way that traditional sports betting operators do.

I think because of the nature of the demographic we target, there’s just again, there’s more valuable markets for us outside of the US,” Salz said. “We don’t need the US in the way the mature, traditional sportsbooks needed it.”

The company believes there is opportunity there. However, it would likely partner with other operators rather than trying to get into each state on its own.

How Rivalry Handles Responsible Gaming

Because Rivalry does market to a younger audience, it does bring up questions about responsible gaming (RG) practices. As Salz pointed out, for some Rivalry’s users, the first bet they place there is the first they’ve ever made.

The company emphasizes RG in the materials it makes available to Rivalry users, Salz said. That includes information about money management, as well as literature that warns bettors, for example, not to buy picks. In addition, he said the customer support staff receives training to encourage people to pause their accounts. To that extent, Rivalry’s VIP program also emphasizes rewarding non-wagering behaviors, such as consuming content.

When it comes to betting, they encourage customers to wager smaller amounts. Rivalry also focuses more on the entertainment aspect of wagering.

“Our whole thesis is we just want people spending what they would spend on Uber Eats in a week or their Netfilx subscription,” Salz said.