US and Canada iGaming Markets Are an Opportunity for European Betting Firms

Online Gambling

With betting company revenues looking set to take a hit this year as the UK prepares stringent new online gambling regulation, European firms are setting their sights on opportunities across the Atlantic. In this article we look in more detail at why European revenues are diminishing and how the US and Canada can offset those predicted declines.

The Trend is Towards Stricter Gambling Regulation in Europe

Where online gambling is concerned, the story in Europe to now has been one of unhindered growth and huge profits. But right now betting firms are starting to see a turn-around in fortunes for the first time. Reacting to rising rates of problem gambling, in the last five years regulators in Sweden, Germany and Spain have all taken steps to restrict consumer exposure to gambling advertising whilst imposing new rules on how much customers can deposit and wager each month.

In Sweden gamblers are now subject to 4,000 SEK weekly deposit limits, whilst in Germany the limits are 1,000 Euros per month. In Spain, all gambling sponsorships have been banned from sports and strict rules have been introduced around TV and social media marketing.

The world’s biggest regulated gambling market, the UK, has resisted these kind of restrictions so far and has grown to a colossal £3.1 billion gross gaming yield annually as a result. But all that is about to change. The government is preparing an overhaul of gambling laws in the country with a white paper set for publication in May outlining changes that could come into effect as early as next year. On the cards are bans on sports sponsorship and strict affordability checks to ensure players don’t spend beyond their means.

With a large proportion of revenues derived from a small percentage of high value customers these proposed changes are a big concern for betting firms. Estimates of as much as a 50% drop in player value have been published in industry press articles from concerned parties. 

So, with such drastic change expected, European betting firms are switching their focus to new markets and it just so happens the US and Canada are opening their doors to online gamblers for the first time. And some familiar names are getting a license to operate there too.

Here is a brief profile of each territory and the companies getting involved.

Online Gambling in the US

In 2018 the US federal government repealed PASPA, affectively making gambling legal again, both online and offline. But change hasn’t happened overnight. Each state is opening up separately with its own regulatory framework. Amongst the first was New Jersey back in 2018, but since then many more have opened, including recently, New York.

In the Empire State, in the first five weeks of betting, more than $2.4 billion was wagered on sports, including the Super Bowl weekend.

It is believed that around a dozen of the US’ 50 states will soon allow online sports betting. However, for the others it may be a long time before gamblers can wager through their phone or PC due to political resistance and fears about problem gambling. The same can be said for online casino gambling which is accepted in even fewer states.

Despite the limitations outlined above, the US still represents a huge opportunity for Europe’s betting firms feeling the pinch for regulation this side of the Atlantic. Which is why some have already successfully applied for licenses in each of the States where gambling is legal.

Betfred, Unibet, Bet365 (owned by the Kindred Group, who also own the 32Red brand), Betway and Will Hill (re-branded as Caesars Sportsbook) are all live and operational in the States and more are expected to follow.

Online Gambling in Canada

Canada also represents a big opportunity for online gambling operators from Europe. The US had their big moment with the repeal of PASPA. In Canada it came in 2021 with Private Members Bill C-218 – the bill that made single event sports betting in Canada legal. Before this time betting was only allowed on Parlays (accumulators) and at government-run lottery sites like PlayNow.com and OLG.com.

The legalisation of single event sports betting in Canada has been a catalyst for the regulation of online gambling through private betting firms across the country for the first time. Now, each province is preparing its own regulatory framework to license operators. The first to complete the process is Ontario and from 4th April 2022 their new market will be live, overseen by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and its subsidiary, iGaming Ontario.

Already operators like Bet365 from the UK and the Kindred Group (Unibet) and LeoVegas from Malta have joined game suppliers Blueprint Gaming, Play n Go and No Limit City from Sweden in acquiring a license from iGaming Ontario and many more are expected to follow. This is reflected in the growing number of new online casinos in 2022 for gamblers in Canada. 

Predictions for the iGaming market in Ontario are very optimistic, with many looking at the success achieved in New York in the first month of business as a benchmark for what can be achieved in Canada’s most populous province. 

Further Opportunities For Europe’s Betting Industry

Despite expected changes in Europe, predictions are that the online gambling market will continue to grow globally over the next five to 10 years. Some predictions put the overall value at over $100 billion by 2027, though it is hard to assess with the ever-changing framework of regulation and the seismic impact that changes can have on revenues. Nevertheless, the US and Canada remain opportunities that most European gambling suppliers and operators cannot afford to turn down. We can expect to see many more looking to expand their business interests there in the coming months and years.

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