TORONTO — Canada's return to the World Cup wasn't a victorious one but it certainly created plenty of action in Ontario's legal sports-betting market.
Belgium defeated the Canadians 1-0 on Wednesday in the tournament opener for both teams. Canada was making its first World Cup appearance since 1986 when it went 0-3 and didn't score a goal.
Canada, ranked No. 41 globally, put up a spirited effort against the second-ranked Belgians in their Group F contest. The Canadians will take on Croatia on Sunday.
The World Cup is generally regarded as one of the world's top sports-betting events, given soccer's global reach and the tournament being held once every four years. But Canada's presence this time around has only increased interest in Ontario's sports betting market, which officially launched April 4.
"Belgium versus Canada is our most bet-on event in the last 30 days in terms of actual bets taken," said Aubrey Levy, Senior Vice-President of Content and Marketing at theScore, which operates theScore Bet. "Four of the 10 most bet-on events this past week are World Cup games.
"Without question there'd still be increased demand but I think with Canada, it's just supercharged."
Many sportsbooks listed Belgium anywhere around minus-175 ($100 bet to secure $275 gross for the win) while Canada was listed at plus-475 ($100 bet to net $475 for the upset). The tie was about plus-340 ($100 get to earn $440 gross).
But Pointsbet had Canada at plus-1200 ($100 bet for $1,200 return) for the win. But it's not like upsets don't happen at the World Cup.
Earlier on Tuesday, Japan rallied for a surprise 2-1 win over Germany, a four-time World Cup champion. That came a day after Saudi Arabia's shocking 2-1 victory over Argentina, which came into the tournament riding a 36-game unbeaten streak.
The betting odds had a Saudi win at plus-2000 ($2,100 gross on $100 bet).
According to FanDuel, in the win-draw-win market, 78 per cent of the money was on favoured Belgium over Canada.
Late in the first half, theScore Bet had Belgium listed at minus-105, the tie at plus-220 and Canada at plus-280. The Belgians scored the game's lone goal at the 44-minute mark.
And like other sportsbooks, theScore Bet offered many various prop bets, including for correct score, first goal-scorer and total goals
"We've set up a bunch of markets to support the game and support interest," Levy said.
Aly Lalani, the head of marketing for BetRegal, said the company also took plenty of World Cup action on Canada.
"We saw a nice chunk the last day or so," he said. "Our Canadian fans are supporting their team.
"It's a very recreational fan base, for sure. Regardless of price, money was coming in just on the Canada side."
Lalani said it's too early to tell what the actual volumes and percentages are for Canada's games at the World Cup.
"You do see volume coming in, for sure, but in past years we've seen more betting on the NHL final," Lalani said. "But I anticipate given the presence of Canada in the market this year, it's going to be a big one.
"I'd say it's the biggest soccer event in Canada but in terms of betting volume from a Canadian perspective, we'll have to see how the numbers pan out over the next couple of weeks."
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. said the World Cup overall is attracting much attention on Proline, with Canada having taken more action to win than expected. It added roughly 35 per cent of customers were backing the Canadians in their tournament opener.
Among some of the World Cup futures markets were:
• Eighty-one per cent of customers have Canada to advance to the second round;
• Forty-eight per cent of customers had Canada winning its group;
• Canada is the third-most popular choice (behind Brazil and Argentina) to win the tournament
Steve Ungar, the director of partnerships for Bet99, added while exact betting numbers were unavailable, his company has noticed increased interest in the Ontario market with Canada in the tournament.
"What we're seeing right now is a lot of hype and excitement because it's the first time in 36 years we get to see Team Canada," he said. "We're expecting really an exciting time for us.
"We do expect there to be a great appetite for watching and attending the watch parties and betting on the game."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press