Northern Exposure: Levy Family Stepping Down From PENN Roles, PointsBet Canada’s Q2 Financials

Each week, Canada Sports Betting recaps all the top sports betting and iGaming news in Canada and highlights upcoming events.

Our top stories this week

Event of the week

Groundhog Day – Feb. 2

Will there be an early spring this year?

If you’re a superstitious person, you might rely on the classic predictions from Canada’s groundhogs on Friday, Groundhog Day, for the answer to this question.

Will the groundhogs see their shadows and retreat back to their respective dens for six more weeks of winter? Well, you can bet on the outcomes at NorthStar Bets:

  • Wiarton Willie (Ontario): Early spring (-118), six more weeks of winter (-118)
  • Balzac Billy (Alberta): Early spring (-200), six more weeks of winter (+150)
  • Manitoba Merv: Early spring (-167), six more weeks of winter (+125)
  • Fred la marmotte (Quebec): Early spring (-118), six more weeks of winter (-118)
  • Shubenacadie Sam (Nova Scotia): Early spring (-118), six more weeks of winter (-112)

NorthStar commissioned a national survey of 1,500 Canadians regarding their thoughts on Groundhog Day and revealed the following findings:

  • 84% of Canadians are hoping for an early spring this season (2024).
  • Almost 70% of Canadians don’t believe the accuracy of the groundhogs’ predictions.
  • More than one-third (38%) of Canadians believe Groundhog Day and its predictions are important to our country’s culture.
  • One in five Gen Zs (aged 19 to 27) have never heard of Groundhog Day, while 100% of respondents over the age of 55 are familiar with the holiday.

Whether you believe in the tradition or not, it might be fun to toss a wager on Friday’s groundhog outcomes to pass the time until the Super Bowl on Feb. 11.

Levy family stepping down from PENN

The founding family of theScore and theScore Bet, the Levy family – John Levy, Benjie Levy, Aubrey Levy, and Noah Levy – will be stepping down from their various roles at PENN Entertainment, the operator announced on Wednesday night in a press release.

PENN is calling the executive change a “planned leadership transition.”

“This transition plan comes at a natural inflection point, with the migration to our proprietary technology platform complete, theScore’s media and betting business delivering record results, and ESPN BET off to a strong start,” said Jay Snowden, CEO and President of PENN Entertainment. “The Levys are a family of successful entrepreneurs and are truly pioneers in the sports media and gaming industry. I am very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with them, including the development of an extremely deep and talented bench at PENN Interactive. With this experienced, best-in-class team firmly in place, we are well prepared for this to be a seamless transition and to continue growing our position as a leader in online gaming and sports media.”

PENN acquired Score Media and Gaming Inc. in October 2021 for $2B U.S. cash and stock. The Levy family’s legacy in Canada began as a small cable TV business that grew into a national sports news network that was eventually sold to Rogers Media. The company then transitioned into a new entity in the digital space, theScore Inc., and developed one of the most popular sports news apps in North America before integrating it into theScore Bet.

“The enduring success of theScore is due to the passionate and committed team that helped launch, develop and innovate our products to provide the best possible fan experience,” said John Levy, Executive Chairman of theScore. “Empowering fans with a seamlessly integrated media and betting experience has been core to our mission since day one. That strategy has led to the success of theScore and theScore Bet in Ontario and ESPN BET in the U.S. and will continue to differentiate this online gaming business going forward.”

Penn says it’s in the final stages of its search for a new Head of Interactive. John will be officially stepping down in mid-February; Benjie (Head of PENN Interactive), Aubrey (content and marketing), and Noah (product development) will be leaving the company in April.

There’s no word on what’s next for the four family members.

An aside note: theScore Bet is running a unique marketing activation for NHL All-Star weekend. The operator is hosting a 24-hour outdoor shinny game at The Well Ice Rink at 444 Front St. W in Toronto.

Fans aged 19 and over can sign up their team for an hour-long time slot to compete in a 2-v-2 game, complete with custom jerseys and theScore Bet swag kit. There’s a grand prize of $5,000 and the action will get underway on Thursday afternoon.

AGCO releases annual report

Last week, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the regulator for Ontario’s igaming market, released its 2022-23 annual report.

The AGCO report includes an appendix on iGaming Ontario’s annual report. iGO is a subsidiary of the AGCO that conducts and manages Ontario’s igaming market.

A few highlights:

  • In the 2022-23 fiscal year, iGO delivered $2.5 million in provincial contribution per full-time equivalent employee – an important measure of our value for taxpayers – while also securing an employee satisfaction rate of 84% for the year.
  • iGaming Ontario’s operators accepted more than $35.5 billion in total wagers from over 1.6 million active player accounts on behalf of iGO. In just one year, Ontario has emerged as a leading igaming market in North America, helping support more than 12,000 jobs and providing over $96 million in net income and more than $145 million in total financial contributions to the province when the provincial portion of iGO’s HST payments are included. That amount is significantly higher than the government’s original projection for iGO’s first year.
  • In the 2022-23 fiscal year, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake served a notice of application with the Ontario Superior Court against iGO and the Attorney General of Ontario seeking ‘a declaration that the Ontario government does not “conduct and manage” online lottery as required under s. 207(1)(a) of the Criminal Code’ as well as challenging the legislative and constitutional authority which underpins the regulated internet Gaming market scheme in Ontario. The application is expected to be heard in February 2024.

In addition to being Ontario’s igaming regulator, the AGCO also presides over alcohol licenses, horse racing, and cannabis.

The AGCO will be implementing some important changes to its advertising standards on Feb. 28, when the use of athletes and celebrities will be prohibited in Internet gaming marketing and advertising in an attempt to protect minors.

PointsBet Canada’s Q2 metrics

PointsBet provided its investors with a financial update on Wednesday, revealing some positive trends regarding its Ontario business.

In Q2, PointsBet’s Ontario operation reported a total net win of $10.5m (Australian dollars), up 109% vs the previous corresponding period, up 95% quarter-over-quarter, a record net win quarter.

Some other highlights:

  • Sports betting gross win margin improved to 8.5%, as a result of growth in parlay handle mix.
  • Sports betting promotions efficiency in Q2 FY24 improved to 36.7% of Gross Win vs 40.9% vs PCP.
  • In-play mix of sportsbook handle grew to 65% in Q2 FY24, up from 63% in the PCP.

PointsBet Canada received a boost from its partnership with Strive Gaming, which helped drastically improve its iCasino offerings (three times more games on the platform).

Ontario regulators have not yet released any operator market share data, so it’s unclear how PointsBet is stacking up against other operators in Ontario’s market, like FanDuel, BetMGM, bet365, Caesars, Sports Interaction, Betway, Bet99, and many others.

BetMGM’s newest Super Bowl ad

The AGCO’s ban on the use of athletes in igaming operator ads isn’t in effect yet, and BetMGM is taking advantage of some Canadian star power leading up to the Super Bowl.

BetMGM, which has previously utilized its partnerships with NHL stars Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid in its ads, is tapping NFL megastar Tom Brady, actor Vince Vaughn, and the aforementioned Gretzky in its latest ad ahead of Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11.

The theme of the ad is that sports betting is for everyone, except Tom Brady, because he’s “won too much” already.

“This year’s Big Game is our moment to put BetMGM front and center of the largest audience in sports,” said Matt Prevost, BetMGM’s Chief Revenue Officer, in a press release. “Our first-ever Big Game commercial showcases Las Vegas as home for the game as well as what we consider to be BetMGM’s home. We couldn’t be happier with the talent we have assembled for the ad, and the connection they have to our brand.”

Once the calendar flips to March, as per the AGCO’s new standards, Gretzky will only be able to appear on ads run in Ontario if he’s delivering a responsible gambling message. The AGCO doesn’t have jurisdiction over other Canadian provinces, though, so audiences in other provinces outside of Ontario will be subject to the usual ads featuring celebrities and athletes.

Bill S-269 has been tabled at the federal level of government with the intent to establish a national framework for advertising for sports betting. It’s in its second reading in the Senate, but it has a long way to go in the parliamentary process before it could potentially come into effect.