Would Montrealers’ Online Behaviour Change if Sports Betting Was Legalized?

Quebec has yet to provide any concrete evidence as to how it plans to move forward in Canada’s new legal gambling landscape.

Quebec was one of Canada’s first provinces to jump on the “single game” betting bandwagon. After the passing of the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act in August 2021, Mis-o-jeux (Quebec’s government run sportsbook), was given the green light to scrap the parlays and start offering users odds for single events. Since then, however, the province has yet to provide any concrete evidence as to how it plans to move forward in Canada’s new legal gambling landscape.

If one were to cross the border to Ontario however, they’d see a different picture. Ontario’s regulatory framework is in full effect, which, according to bookmaker comparison & SEO expert, Alex Goldstein, has led to a change in the way Ontario residents search for bookmaker alternatives on Google. Will the same be true in Montreal, if the 514 ever takes the step to regulation? 

Overview of Ontario 

Ontario’s regulatory framework was launched on the 4th of April 2022, and has since provided operational licenses to over 30 sportsbooks, and over 60 online casino sites in the province. Ontario has been earmarked as one of the most lucrative gambling markets within North America, with new operators joining the market frequently. 

Ontario’s debut year as a regulated gambling market was certainly one to remember, according to the Toronto Star. Ontarians wagered $3.56 billion during this period, with the province experiencing a steady growth in revenue that amounted to $1.4 billion thanks to its newly formulated regulatory model. 

How Online Behaviour Changed in Ontario 

Alex Goldstein, editor-in-chief at mybettingsites.com/ca has noticed a change in search behaviour amongst users looking for online gambling alternatives in Ontario on Google. In collaboration with Canadian Gaming News, Goldstein compared search volume between the 11-month period before legal online gambling was launched, with search volume from the 11-month period after legal gambling had been launched. 

The findings were significant – searches for “Ontario betting sites” increased by over 200% between these periods, while searches for the phrase “betting sites” decreased by roughly 8%, which indicates that users in Ontario are now more interested in making use of regulated options that are carrying the provincial license. Branded searches for existing operators (such as “Bet365”, “Betway” & “Sports Interaction”) were all searched for less in the 11 months after the legal gambling launch compared to before, while new brands to the operator market were all searched for more, barring Caesars’ Sportsbook. 

Searches for the phrase “betting sites” in all of Canada also grew in the 11-month period after the launch of legal gambling, which Goldstein mentioned as being down to the fact that while the regulation was Ontario specific, it had an effect on public interest throughout more of Canada’s provinces and territories. 

Montrealers have shown an interest 

While Quebec has yet to budge from its decision to remain ambivalent towards online gambling regulation, residents of the province, specifically Montrealers, have shown heavy interest in Ontario’s licensed market, which indicates a desire amongst users for a regulated Quebec. 

Goldstein’s, bookmaker comparison website, which includes Ontario specific content, has garnered interest from residents in Montreal. This indicates an interest among residents of the city for a regulated gambling market. 

Aside from users in cities in Ontario, users in Montreal made up the largest user group that were navigating to Goldstein’s Ontario specific content, that covered information regarding the bookmakers that were available in the province, their license numbers, and which bookmakers have most recently launched. To Goldstein, this suggested that people in Montreal are invested in the development of Ontario’s iGaming market. 

Possibility of Regulation in Quebec have received a boost

We could see this change in behaviour sooner rather than later as the chances of Quebec regulating their online gambling market have received a boost. The formation of the Quebec Online Gaming Commission (link in French), which has tasked itself with applying pressure on the province to regulate online gambling has already begun working with Lotto Quebec to come to an agreement regarding the path to regulation. The coalition is made up of some leading online gambling providers in Canada, including Betway, Fanduel and DraftKings, along with property and interactive gaming investors, Apricot Investments. 

Closing Thoughts

If Quebec were to also regulate their own gambling market in the same way Ontario has, Goldstein firmly believes that like their neighbours in the Heartland Province, the Québécois, specifically Montrealers, will change the way they search too.