DraftKings, NFL Take Their Daily Fantasy Sports Partnership to Canada

  • DraftKings and the NFL originally inked a US market deal in September 2019
  • The two companies work together on marketing and multimedia content
  • DraftKings is likely positioning itself to jump on a future Canadian sports betting market
  • Canadian lawmakers are currently considering a bill to legalize single-event sports betting
row of NFL footballs
DraftKings and the NFL are expanding their daily fantasy sports partnership beyond the United States, announcing Thursday that they are teaming up in the Canadian market. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

North America isn’t just America

DraftKings and the National Football League (NFL) have announced that they are heading north of the border, expanding their current daily fantasy sports (DFS) collaboration into Canada. Until now, their one-and-a-half-year-old marketing and content partnership was restricted to the United States.

Though there are no NFL teams based in Canada, the league is still very popular there, even with competition from the Canadian Football League. In fact, the Buffalo Bills played one regular season game in Toronto each season from 2008 to 2013.

The companies’ original agreement, inked in September 2019, made DraftKings the exclusive daily fantasy sports partner of the NFL. It has provided DraftKings with the opportunity to work with the league on content presented on the DraftKings app and NFL multimedia channels.

a unique opportunity in the Canadian market”

“This expanded agreement gives us a unique opportunity in the Canadian market,” said DraftKings’ chief business officer Ezra Kucharz, “and we look forward to working with the team at the NFL Canada as we continue to shape the modern fan experience.”

DraftKings positioning itself for sports betting

Conventional wisdom has it that DraftKings is also looking toward the “unique opportunity” of a sports betting launch in Canada, using this deal to better position the company to make a move down the road.

As it stands now, legal sports betting does exist in Canada, but bettors are only allowed to play parlays featuring a minimum of three teams. Parlays have greater potential returns than do individual bets, but they are also more difficult to win, as you must win each leg of the wager. The idea behind only allowing parlays is that rigging games for a big gambling payoff is infinitely less likely because multiple games would have to be influenced.

Canadian lawmakers are currently considering a bill, introduced late last year, that would legalize and regulate single-event sports betting in the country. Provinces and territories would have domain over sports betting regulation; both online and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks would be permitted. Horse racing betting, also limited to parlays, is also part of the bill.

Daily fantasy sports players in Canada can already play on DraftKings, but this deal extension with the NFL will give the company further visibility among those who do not participate in DFS. DraftKings likely hopes to capitalize on this brand boost if and when single-event sports betting becomes legal and the company follows that up with an online sportsbook launch in the country.

Friends in high places

Naturally, industry stakeholders are thrilled with the potential legal developments in Canada. The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) estimates that regulated sportsbooks only bring in CAD$500m (US$392m) per year, with billions flowing to offshore books. CGA president and CEO Paul Burns believes that legalizing single-event wagering, the type of betting most people do, would generate sizable tax revenue and create new jobs in the country.

The commissioners of the five major sports leagues that operate in Canada sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2020, urging him to move on single-event sports betting.

“Sports betting gives fans another exciting way to engage with the sports they love,” the commissioners of the NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, and CFL wrote.

They added: “Sports betting already happens illegally in Canada; creating a legal framework would shift consumers from illicit, unregulated markets to a legal and safe marketplace.”