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Canada’s year ahead: How payments will drive growth for Ontario sportsbooks

As the Ontario online sports-betting market begins its third year, we explore the significant value of payments for player acquisition and retention.

April 4th marks the second anniversary of Ontario’s launch of its private sports-betting market. The revenue for the last 12 months is likely to be impressive, building on the C$1.48bn total gaming revenue iGaming Ontario reported for the year-ending April 4th, 2023.

As Ontario sportsbooks contemplate the year ahead and with the province of Alberta hinting at launching its own private market in 2024, the Canadian gaming industry is keenly focused on growth. And with payments playing a crucial but arguably undervalued role in player acquisition and retention, the growth conversation needs to include how Canadians like to pay when they play.

Ontario sports bettors’ payment preferences

For operators in Ontario and other provinces considering private markets, strengthening an online sportsbook’s cashier really starts with players’ payment preferences. When we surveyed Ontario online sports-bettors for our 2024 global iGaming payments research report, a key takeaway was that players in Canada favour a range of different payment methods when they fund wagers.

Debit cards and related solutions like Interac e-Transfer are Ontario bettors’ favourite way of transacting at the cashier. In total, 59% of players in the province listed debit cards or Interac e-Transfer as one of their top-three payment preferences. As well as the importance of debit cards, this also indicates how essential it is for operators to localize their cashiers to include Interac e-Transfer, among other local payment methods (LPMs).

The popularity of debit cards for iGaming in Ontario is at odds with broader eCommerce trends in Canada, where credit cards are traditionally king. That said, operators should definitely not neglect credit cards, with almost a third of Ontario sports bettors (30%) preferring to use one for deposits.

Alternative payment methods (APMs) appear to be growing in popularity in Ontario alongside cards. Today a quarter of bettors (26%) consider a digital wallet like our Skrill solution one of their top-three payment preferences. That said, wallets are not yet Ontarians’ go-to payment solution, with 58% of bettors who wager with a digital wallet only using it sometimes and 19% rarely.

With digital wallets growing in popularity in Ontario, operators really need to integrate a wallet into their cashier, but they also should consider other APMs to meet niche player preferences. Online cash solutions like our Paysafecash and paysafecard products are popular with 15% of Ontario sports bettors, doubling the adoption rate (7%) we saw in our 2023 report.

Payments and acquiring Ontario sports bettors 

With Ontario players’ payment preferences diverse, it’s essential for operators to build a cashier that covers all the different ways that their customers like to transact. A robust cashier will help operators maximize player acquisition in Ontario, with 23% of bettors saying that the availability of their go-to payment method is a key factor in why they choose a sportsbook in the first place.

That said, payment method availability is far from the only transactional consideration that factors into player acquisition. In fact, the top reason players choose a sportsbook is because of quick and easy payouts (prioritized by 39%), which Ontario bettors place on a par with brand trust (also 39%), but above every other factor, including good odds (29%), promotions (21%), user experience (16%), and sports markets offered (16%).

While cashing out seamlessly is crucial for player acquisition, offering payment methods with fast and frictionless deposits is almost as vital. Three out of 10 Ontarian bettors (29%) choose a sportsbook based on the depositing process.

Playing and paying for keeps in Ontario

Of course, converting a player is just the start of the customer relationship. And payments are equally crucial to maximizing player retention and the overall customer lifetime value (CLV).

Indeed, the majority of Ontario online sports bettors (72%) consider the payment experience an important factor in why they continue to wager with a sportsbook. Just 6% of Ontarians consider payments unimportant when it comes to brand loyalty, with the remainder on the fence.

And when the payment experience goes awry, and players’ loyalty is put to the test? According to our research, a single bad transactional experience will likely drive 65% of Ontarians to leave a sportsbook for good, with only 13% more tolerant and willing to give the brand a second chance.

Whether operators are looking to extend CLVs and conversion rates for their Ontario sportsbook or are engaged in product development in anticipation of Alberta’s launch, it’s vital that they get payments right. Canadian sportsbooks with a robust cashier that fields a comprehensive range of payment methods, while supporting seamless deposits and payouts, will stand the test of time – not just for the next 12 months, but for years to come. 

To learn more about how payments can drive growth for online sportsbooks in Canada’s Ontario, download All the ways players pay 2024.