What are the realistic hopes for smaller sportsbooks in North America?

Four online sportsbooks dominate the North American market, so Hartley looks at all of the 'little guys' chances of survival in a crowded marketplace.

What small sportsbooks can survive the U.S. and Canadian market?

In November, Kindred Group announced that Unibet was leaving North America and customers have now started to receive emails from the company to withdraw their funds while they can. Kindred Group is hardly a small company. They have over 1,400 employees worldwide, are in 11 countries, had well over $1.2 billion in revenue in 2022 and close to $4 billion in B2B and B2C business. Unibet leaving Canada US sportsbetting marketThey have won awards as the world’s best sportsbook operator on four occasions and sponsor numerous soccer teams in Europe and both the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. They announced they will cease all operations by the 2nd quarter of 2024 meaning the NFL sponsorships will almost certainly disappear too. The company indicated that the market in North America is simply too competitive and taxes too high to be effective. It’s actually the same reasoning that led Coolbet and Mansion to leave Ontario and both FoxBet and MaximBet to cease operations in the United States. Even Wynn, which has two of the most exclusive casinos in Las Vegas and a large casino in Macau, shut down WynnBet almost everywhere in the U.S. because it simply couldn’t compete. They are still in New York, but it’s a forgone conclusion that they will leave that market too or sell the license to the highest bidder.

The question is, what about the others?

The market is currently dominated by four sportsbooks, although that will increase by two in the next year. FanDuel, based in New York City, but owned by Flutter Entertainment, whose corporate headquarters is in Dublin, Ireland, is the market leader, followed closely by DraftKings based in Boston, BetMGM and BetCaesars, both based in Las Vegas. ESPNBet owned by Penn Entertainment based in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania and BetFanatics based in Jacksonville, Florida will also be among the leaders shortly as well. It should be noted that in Ontario, Penn is using TheScoreBet for its platform, since ESPN is not available in Canada, and Barstool before them was unknown in the country. Penn has recently let some ScoreBet senior personnel leave, making one believe that they will do something with TheScoreBet, but at this point it’s hard to know what that is.

After those sportsbooks it’s a crapshoot. I decided to look at each book, with an explanation of who they are, what their biggest assets are and assigned a likelihood for whether they will still likely be operating in North America by the end of 2026. The scale is 1 to 10 with one being the least likely to survive. Note, I am not reviewing sportsbooks connected to physical casinos, lotteries or racetracks such as BetParx, Mohegan, OLG or PlayFallsview.

Bet365: likelihood 10

Everyone who knows Bet365, loves Bet365. The UK based company is currently only in a few states plus Ontario, but they just received an Indiana license and it’s inevitable they will continue to expand. Bet365 in US CanadaThe company’s revenues come relatively close to the big names like DraftKings, although most of that is due to revenues outside the U.S.  The company is privately held by Denise Coates. They are known for the number of bet offers, in-game props, fabulous incentives, and great customer service.  Bet365 in 2022 was the largest online sportsbook in Ontario and has grown dramatically in New Jersey. They will certainly be around and could be challenging the six mentioned previously if they are granted more U.S. licenses.

BetRivers: likelihood 8

The company owned by RushStreet Interactive based in Chicago is currently in 14 states and Ontario. They had revenues of $592 million in 2022 and expect revenues to be between $665 million and $685 million in 2023. There is no question the company is growing, but they still had losses of $71 million in 2021 and $134 million in 2022. The losses this year are expected to be slightly less. No company can lose money forever and exist and it’s hard to envision what the long-term prospects are without some changes. Given their size and the funding sources, they will likely survive for a few years but could be primed for a sale or merger should another big company like Fanatics start looking to enter the market.

Hard Rock: likelihood 8

Hard Rock was bought by the Seminole Tribe almost two decades ago and operates in several states. Hard Rock sports betting US marketTheir survival as a sportsbook on a national level could rely on what happens with the Florida compact. If they continue to have a monopoly to offer sports betting in Florida, it will provide them with far more revenue to expand, but if the compact is disallowed then the Seminoles will likely not be able to support expansion elsewhere. That said, it is more than likely the compact will go ahead after it reaches the final appeal and Hard Rock will be a player at least in the states they have a physical casino. That said, Hard Rock will never be on the same level as FanDuel or BetMGM.

BetFred: likelihood 8

While not the most well-known book in the U.S., BetFred is a juggernaut in Europe. Based in England, the company founded by Fred Done in the late 1960s has grown exponentially. BetFred US sportsbook marketIn the UK they are known for their betting shops as well as being the tote operator for UK horse racing. They are operating in 10 states, including Nevada, and revenues have been quite good. The company doesn’t post results by region, but after some tough times in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic they had total corporate revenue of just under $800 million in 2022 on nearly $10 billion in handle. They also turned a profit of about $25 million. The company is known to cut off winning players, but they provide great promotions and incentives to their losing clientele. Given the size of the company, one can expect that, like Bet365, they will be a major presence as an “other book” in the United States for the foreseeable future.

Tipico: likelihood 7

Tipico is a very large company in Europe with over 6,000 employees and they currently operate in four fairly large states: New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio and Iowa. Tipico sportsbook USA CanadaBy all accounts they have done extremely well in those states and have no real desire to expand elsewhere in the U.S. at the current time. The company is projected to have just over $100 million in handle for the year, but have grown by over 12% from the prior year and have some very large betting clients. Residing in four states with low taxes and licensing fees, as well as limiting costs on advertising and promotions in the United States (unlike overseas), the company could be set to do well in these markets, although they’ll never compete with the larger sportsbooks and may not want to.

Superbook and Circa Sports: likelihood 5

Superbook, the sportsbook of Westgate Casino in Las Vegas, claims on its site to be the world’s biggest sportsbook. Naturally they are talking about their physical location and not online or total revenue. The company is currently in nine states, but the site indicates they will be in Indiana and Louisiana too. Despite being founded in 1993 they seem to be new to the online market and clearly hoped to grow on name recognition. It’s been nearly impossible to find out financial results of the online sports product since Westgate only lists all revenues, but talking to an individual I know from the physical sportsbook he said interest and revenue so far has been “good not great.” But he also said they are growing and expect to be among the top books soon. The question is will they? If Wynn couldn’t succeed in the current online climate, then how will Superbook? The company is clearly no MGM or Caesars and while they have a big following with Vegas residents, they are still relatively unknown by American bettors outside of Nevada. Moreover, Superbook is probably best known for their contests which will not be allowed in the majority of states they operate. This could be a ploy to merge with another name or maybe the company hopes to survive on name recognition without doing much advertising or promotions. We’ll see if that works.

BallyBet: likelihood 3

BallyBet, based in Providence, Rhode Island, is currently in six states and Ontario. They have one of the coveted New York licenses, which could prove quite useful, but are at the bottom of the list in New York in terms of revenue and they are struggling in all states they are in.BallyBet US sportsbook Despite the amount they spend on advertising, they are most known for slots, given that casinos have always had Ballys slot machines. So last year the company announced it was relaunching with help from Kambi to get their sports betting product over the hump. But if initial revenues are any indication, it hasn’t helped.  In 2022 Bally’s Corp. lost over $425 million, which it attributed to bad partnerships, and this year the initial revenues seem poor too. That said, the casino product is quite good and because they are known for their slot machines, both physical and digital, they should survive without issue, although in New York online slots are still not allowed. The question is whether they’ll want to continue as a sportsbook realizing there is no future? My guess is no and they will sell their sports betting license possibly to a company like Bet365, who applied to get into New York but were turned down, but BallyBet will continue operating as an online casino company.

Betway: likelihood 3

The Maltese company Betway, owned by Super Group, is currently active in seven states and Ontario. They began operations in the EU in 2006 and became quite popular there after signing sponsorships with many Premiere League teams. But, they have struggled in North America. In 2022 they recorded a loss of 70 million euros in North America and have really struggled to make any inroads against the big boys. The company’s strength is in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and one must suspect that they’ll realize they can never compete with the likes of FanDuel or even Bet365 in North America and see that the continent is a drain on income. Consequently, they will be forced to focus on their market strengths the same way that Kindred is doing with Unibet.

Betly: likelihood 5

Betly is a relatively small sportsbook based out of Buffalo, NY, although they don’t have a New York license. They currently operate in four states and seem to have a bit of a niche in Arkansas. Little is known about this new book, but it is not advertising much and can probably survive in smaller markets with lower licensing fees and more wise guy action, but lower volume. It’s far too early to see if Betly can be a success, so I ranked them in the middle for the likelihood of surviving.

Clutch Bet: likelihood 2

The sportsbook owned by Australian sportsbook and casino operator Blue Bet is operating in Iowa and Colorado and just launched in Louisiana. While the owners seem optimistic, there is no reason to think they have anything unique. ClutchBet will almost certainly be in a situation similar to PointsBet that was also based in Australia, who quickly realized that being a small fish in the big pond that is the United States is fruitless. No revenue figures for the Clutch Bet brand are available.

Betsafe: likelihood 2

Operating in Colorado and Ontario, management for the Maltese company told news outlets they hope to expand soon, but sources that know the situation have told me that the company is already eying the exit doors.

Other Ontario-Only based sportsbooks (with likelihoods in bracket).

Pinnacle Sports (8) – The well-respected company that operated offshore for years has maintained its small, but very faithful, Ontario clientele. The company has no desire to compete with FanDuel or BetMGM, realizing the low vig and high limit options will appeal to all the clients they have who will not be looking for better options elsewhere. As one Pinnacle manager said to me "not every sportsbook wants or needs hundreds of thousands of clients to succeed."

soorts betting canada888 Sports (5) - A European juggernaut, now owned by Appollo Holdings, has not reached the levels they expected despite being one of first to launch in Ontario. The casino product has been successful. There was hope by Appollo that they could nab a lot of Ontario bettors with the William Hill brand they own everywhere but the United States, but William Hill in North America is controlled by Caesars, so they stuck with 888 only. According to many Ontario bettors, the 888 sportsbook offers a lot of games but the promotions are lacking and there are better brands out there. That said, they will survive for a while longer thanks to name recognition and overall worldwide revenue.

PointsBet (5) - While PointsBet sold the U.S. operations to Fanatics they maintained their Ontario license since they felt there was still opportunity in the province. They do have a good following in Ontario but at some point they’ll have to decide if it’s worth being in the Western Hemisphere at all, when they are quite successful in Australia and Asia. At the moment, PointsBet still advertises quite extensively in Ontario and say they have no plans to leave any time soon.

Bwin and Party Gaming (5) – Like 888 they will survive due to their size and name recognition, but unless poker really takes off in Ontario, they will be picking up the pieces.

NorthStar Bets (4) – Northstar Gaming, based in Toronto, is a relatively small company but has a good following in Ontario. They will never be among the big boys but offer some good promotions and have solid funding to keep going.

Bet99 (4) – Like Northstar Bets, Bet99 is headquartered in Toronto and has less than 50 employees. They have developed a significant following thanks to nabbing Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews as spokespeople, but the new Ontario law that will ban athlete advertising and promotions at the end of February could have a huge impact. If they can overcome that hurdle, they should survive.

BetVictor (3) – Formerly Victor Chandler, the well-known UK company has made little impact in Ontario and will almost certainly leave at some point. That said, they do have some loyal clients.

Betano (3) - The Swedish company is well known and loved in parts of Europe but, despite a fair deal of advertising in Ontario, has struggled to get much sports betting revenue. The casino product is popular.

Rivalry (3) – Based in the Isle of Man, Rivalry was one of the first sportsbooks to get a Canadian license. Still, they have not reached the levels they hoped. The company has recently stated they have some big plans and changes for the future. We’ll see.

Powerplay Sports (2) – Great name, great site, still very small. This is one of the tiny books that could make an impact with better marketing, but unless they increase their client base, they will fold at some point.

Fitzdares (1) - Fitzdares was one of the first to register in Ontario but didn’t actually launch for almost a year. The book is best known in England for horse racing, which isn’t available in Ontario, other than tapping into the tote system, which to date only Bet365 has agreed to do. Revenue figures have been dreadful and I expect Fitzdares will be one of the next sportsbooks to leave.

TonyBet (1) - TonyBet is well known for their sponsorships in Europe, but ask most Ontarians what they think of TonyBet and they will say what is that? The company has made no inroads and it is hard to see them continuing much longer.

Casumo (1) – Like with TonyBet, when asked about Casumo, almost all Ontario bettors will just shrug. The company is far too small to justify even the $100,000 annual licensing fee.

NeoBet (1) – See Casumo!

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