Northern Exposure: Alberta Budget Day, PointsBet’s Canadian Growth Projections

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

LeBron milestone watch

LeBron James is within striking distance of yet another prestigious NBA milestone.

The King has a chance to become the first player ever to score 40,000 career points on Thursday night when his Los Angeles Lakers take on the lowly Washington Wizards. He needs just 40 points to hit the incredible milestone, but it will obviously take a Herculean effort to get the job done on Thursday night. Should he come up short of his goal Thursday, his next chance for history will be on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.

Coming out of the All-Star break, bet365 had posted odds on when James would collect his 40,000th career point. He was +300 to get the job done Thursday against the Wizards, and +200 (the shortest odds listed) to claim history on Saturday vs. the Nuggets. James’ season high in points is 40, which he netted back on Dec. 23 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Wizards have the worst defence in the league, allowing 124.2 points per game, and the Lakers are big 9.5-point favourites on Thursday.

Alberta budget day

The Alberta provincial government will be releasing its annual budget for 2024 at approximately 3:15 p.m. local time on Thursday and it could include information relating to the potential formation of a regulated igaming market.

The Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, Dale Nally, recently attended an igaming industry conference in London, England, and engaged in discussions with Ontario igaming stakeholders about their recent experiences launching such a market in 2022.

Canada Sports Betting has learned that the Canadian Gaming Association has been engaging with the Alberta government and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) about the possibility of the jurisdiction enhancing its igaming market. A timeline for the creation of such a market, or what it kind potentially like, is currently unknown, but the new budget could shed some light on Thursday.

The AGLC announced in December 2021 that it was planning to allow two private operators to run sports betting, with possible mobile extensions, at major professional sports venues across the province — but the process fell apart when the government agency put out its request for proposals.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her government released a budget teaser video last week, and there was no mention of gambling reforms.

PointsBet teases Canadian expansion

Earlier this week, PointsBet released its financials for the six months ended Dec. 31 of last year.

Some interesting data pertaining to its Canadian operations was revealed, particularly in a slide that highlighted the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia for potential regulated igaming expansion.

This information fuels speculation that Alberta will soon announce plans to privatize igaming in some capacity in the near future, and also spotlights B.C. as another jurisdiction that could be interested, at some level, in expanding its igaming sphere outside of provincially owned entities at some point. Currently, Ontario is the only province to embrace private igaming operators in their jurisdiction.

PointsBet is projecting its Ontario operation will be close to EBITDA breakeven by the end of 2025 and it recorded positive metrics regarding in-play cash active clients, sports gross win margins, and igaming net win in this latest report.

In other PointsBet news, the operator announced earlier this week that the 2024 and 2025 PointsBet Invitational curling events will be held at the WinSport Event Centre in Calgary. Could this be another possible hint that regulated sports betting is coming to Alberta soon? The two previous editions of the event were held in Fredericton, New Brunswick (2022), and Oakville, Ontario (2023).

Enhanced betting insights coming to NorthStar

On Wednesday, NorthStar Bets announced some enhancements coming to its igaming platform.

The operator, which recently expanded its offerings across all of Canada after initially launching in Ontario’s regulated market, is planning to roll out new features, design, stats, and a smoother user experience into its sports betting insights section.

“In a crowded online gaming marketplace, we believe NorthStar is unique in offering this depth of betting content and insights seamlessly integrated into its betting app,” said Michael Moskowitz, Chair and CEO of NorthStar, in a press release. “Over the next several months, we will be rolling out groundbreaking upgrades to give our players more of what they want and how they wish to receive it. We expect Sports Insights 2.0 to further cement NorthStar Bets as a premium and innovative online betting brand.”

Some of the new features and upgrades expected to launch throughout 2024 include:

  • A redesign of the sports insights home page, including a live scoreboard ticker, live odds, ‘trending topics,’ hero carousel and greater promotion of on-site offers/ promotions.
  • Deeper integration between the sportsbook and sports insights to provide easier access to betting picks, trends and stats.
  • More dynamic “always on” content, including live odds widgets, live box scores, scoreboards and Twitter/X feeds.
  • Enhanced statistics focusing on ‘stats that matter’ to sports bettors including game logs and individual player stats.
  • More casino and novelty markets content including announcements, offers and game reviews.
  • Proprietary APIs that make the model scalable and simpler to replicate with new third-party media partners or with new operators.
  • New content and features such as shareable, social-friendly weekly sports quizzes to drive engagement and loyalty.

NorthStar Bets is the proud sponsor of The Puck Portfolio Podcast with Canada Sports Betting’s Andy MacNeil.

WSOP coming to Great Canadian Casino

Great Canadian Casino Resort, in partnership with GGPoker, will be hosting the first-ever World Series of Poker event in Toronto from March 22-April 1, Great Canadian Entertainment announced in an email press release on Monday.

There will be a total of $3.9 million in estimated prize pools across eight Circuit Ring events.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with GGPoker to bring the World Series of Poker to Toronto for the first time. This is a fitting milestone that will create further momentum for our recently opened 30-table poker room at Great Canadian Toronto, Canada’s newest and largest casino resort,” said Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto General Manager Robert Katsavelos. “We are excited to welcome tournament participants from across the North American poker community and from right here in the City of Toronto and are certain that this event is going to be a huge success.”

Canadian poker legend and GGPoker brand ambassador Daniel Negreanu will also be participating in the event.

“I have been playing WSOP events around the world for over 25 years,” said Negreanu in the release. “There is something quite special about being able to finally compete in one in my hometown.”

The full schedule of events at WSOP Circuit at Great Canadian Toronto will be announced soon.