Ontario – the province that has been on everyone’s lips since it went live back in April 2022. But as betting operators from around the world try to get in on the action, what’s the key to success in this soon-to-be betting powerhouse?
For some, it’s bonuses and offers that capture the attention of bettors. For others, it’s stand-out technology. And for Fitzdares, it’s a combination of the two mixed with an uber personalised experience for those enjoying a flutter.
The Mayfair-based operator was among the first cohort of operators to be granted an iGaming Operator Registration from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, with plans to go live in summer 2022.
Similar to its UK and Irish offering, the SBC Racing Sportsbook of the Year 2020 has already set its sights on delivering a luxury experience to gamblers on the other side of the Atlantic. But how, you might ask?
In an interview with SBC Leaders, Fitzdares CEO William Woodhams explained that the AGCO licence is a landmark achievement for the business. But with huge competition, Fitzdares is placing customer service at the heart of its Canadian operations.
He began: “We are thrilled to be able to deliver a premium betting experience to the Canadian market. We’ve seen some pretty dire consumer experiences since betting became legal in the market and we hope to offer those looking for a luxury experience a real alternative.
“Receiving our AGCO licence is a landmark achievement for the business. There will be huge competition in this newly-regulated market, but we feel our more premium and customer-focused experience will be an ideal fit.
“Work is very much underway to ensure that we deliver on our promise – in style. I would like to thank the teams at both the AGCO and iGaming Ontario for supporting us with our application and preparations for launch.”
The Ontario market, Woodhams shared, features both attractive licensing conditions as well as a forward-thinking approach to marketing; not to mention a “brilliant” audience of bettors to tap into.
This favourable environment made Ontario an obvious choice for Fitzdares. When pressed on what made this particular market stand out, Woodhams added: “Firstly, it’s the regulator with attractive licensing conditions. Then it’s the audience – well-off, mature in their deep knowledge and understanding of sport and frankly, they’re brilliant people.
“Also, being based in the UK, the time zone works for us. But what we really like is the forward-looking marketing restrictions, where it isn’t a race to the bottom with $1,000 sign-up bonuses advertised via affiliates.”
Fitzdares’ first North American launch will be complemented by its exclusive members’ club, The Fitzdares Club, which will open its doors next year. Having already opened up clubs in London’s Mayfair and the Cotswolds in South West England, this new addition aims to bring what Woodhams describes as a “je ne sais quois” to the Canadian betting market.
The location of the club, however, is yet to be decided as the bookmaker plans to test out a number of venues with pop-up events before deciding on a permanent home – although, we can reveal that Ottawa and Toronto are looking to be likely candidates.
Talk soon turned towards Fitzdares’ European experience and, more specifically, its association with more ‘traditional sports’ such as horse racing, football … sorry, soccer, and rugby. But with Canadians showing much more of a penchant for hockey and lacrosse, pricing such sports can come with its own set of challenges.
Woodhams added: “We are a lean business and our core trading in the UK is obviously horse racing. We have hired North American sports experts to assist in our trading strategy, but we have confidence in how our principal technology partner FSB Tech has been building its business to service both Canada and the US.
“We are delighted to be among their first digital partners to go live in North America when we launch in Ontario this summer.”
So what does this mean for its UK customers? Well, they may want to start getting to grips with some more North American sports as Woodhams explained that these Canadian favourites may begin to feature much more in its UK offering.
“Whilst we’re offering these sports already, they are clearly fairly low turnover … for now,” he told SBC Leaders. “We’re going to be pricing up specials for our Canadian customers and there’s no reason why we wouldn’t offer them back home in the UK.
“We’re also looking at streaming options outside of horse racing and that would provide an obvious gateway into Canadian sports for our customers.”
Pricing new sports can come with its own set of challenges, but one of the greatest obstacles that faced the Fitzdares CEO when applying for an AGCO licence was ensuring that he got the name of the national sport correct.
For those based in the UK, it appears that referring to “ice hockey” is somewhat of a cardinal sin in Canada – a realisation that became very clear to Woodhams after a quiet word from the regulator.
“I was scolded by the regulator for saying ‘Ice’ and was worried it might even jeopardise our licence. They forgave me in the end, and you’ll never catch anyone calling it ‘Ice Hockey’ in this business.”
The next few months certainly look to be exciting for Fitzdares as it plants its flag in the North American market, and as we progress further into 2022, the CEO urged SBC Leaders to ‘watch this space’ for more developments.
Giving us a sneak peek into what’s to come, Woodhams concluded: “Market access, operations and the cost of sales is very high in the US. If more Canadian provinces or, indeed, US States follow the Ontario model, we’ll be there.
“If market access continues to be tethered to bricks and mortar, it’s more likely that we’d partner with a larger operator on the experiential side rather than operate ourselves. This is a hugely exciting time for our business, but we’ll be making our moves carefully.”