Daily Fantasy Sports Games Still Alive In Ontario

While many Ontarians are wagering with a plethora of new, legal sportsbooks this NFL season, daily fantasy sports players in the province are still mourning the loss of fantasy sports contests.

The regulation of single-event sports wagering in Ontario effectively shut down most of the DFS operations in the province, as major operators like FanDuel and DraftKings launched their respective sportsbooks and iCasino products.

Regulations put in place by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission don’t prohibit DFS in the province, but they have made it more difficult for licensed operators. The reason is they don’t allow Ontario players to have shared liquidity with any other jurisdictions, so contests need to be ring-fenced within Ontario, vastly limiting the potential player pools and prizes.

FanDuel decided to shut down both its free and paid DFS contests in the province April 1 before joining the regulated sports betting/iCasino market on April 4. DraftKings followed suit by shuttering its DFS operations when it later joined the market in mid-May.

DFS not completely dead in Ontario

So what are DFS players in Ontario to do now? Well, there’s at least one other option — OwnersBox — for them to use.

OwnersBox is an Ontario-based sports tech company with a fantasy sports platform hoping to attract users through community and competition. Founded in 2019, OwnersBox is operating in 36 states and all of Canada, including Ontario. There are roughly 40,000 users on the platform, which is available for download on Android or iOS, or users can play on ownersbox.com. Nearly 10,000 of those users have signed up in the last month leading up to the NFL season.

“Our goal is to hit 50,000-plus users by the end of the year. I think we can definitely achieve that,” a co-founder of OwnersBox, Vice President of Content Sandy Plashkes, told Sports Handle.

(Image courtesy OwnersBox)

According to Plashkes, OwnersBox is now the only DFS option in Ontario besides Drafters, a Toronto-based fantasy sports company.

“We have been working with regulators, we’re continuing to operate. The rules could change, but our team is constantly working with the regulators to ensure we’re fully compliant. We’re in their good books right now,” he said.

“I honestly think DFS will come back fully [to Ontario], but I can’t tell you when that will be. As of right now, we’re able to operate in Ontario. We’re operating in that gray area, not operating a sportsbook. We had good feedback from [regulators]. Obviously, things are changing so fast.”

Ontario’s regulators have proposed an Oct. 31 deadlines to fully transition unregulated Ontario online gaming operators to the regulated market. It’s unclear how, or if, this amendment to the regulator’s iGaming standards could affect the remaining companies in the DFS space, once formalized. But, for now, it’s business as usual.

“We have to do a good job of educating players. Rules can change. We’re here, but we’re fully compliant and will listen to regulators as this process matures a bit,” Plashkes added.

Not just football, but DFS players love football

While OwnersBox has seen a surge of new sign-ups in advance of the NFL season, the platform also offers DFS games for NHL, MLB, and NBA.

The operator is offering weekly fantasy sports games as well as DFS SuperFlex and Lightning Lineups games. Plashkes says Lightning Lineups is like a “fantasy slot machine” that allows users to randomize lineups without doing a ton of research.

With a smaller user base, the prize pools are just a fraction of what DFS players would see on DraftKings or FanDuel.

“Our prize pools are probably 10-15% of what a DraftKings or FanDuel would offer. At this point, we’re a smaller company, but these are the biggest prize pools we’ve done. It’s exciting for us,” Plashkes said.

OwnersBox is also pushing a significant amount of engaging content for users. Staffers are frequently streaming on Twitch discussed picks and games, and the site features a comprehensive blog with sports betting and DFS insights.

“We’re differentiated from DraftKings, because we can’t spend $300-plus million a quarter on marketing. We have to be gritty, we have to do everything on how to build our brand,” Plashkes said. “I know there’s a lot of [DFS] people not happy, especially Ontario users. We’re not as well known as a DraftKings or FanDuel yet, but people are really excited that there’s an operator here for them to at least play in contests for this NFL season.”

The QB connection

Former NFL quarterback Drew Brees is an investor and promotional ambassador for OwnersBox.

Plashkes — who was born in Toronto but grew up in San Diego, California — lived down the street from his idol Brees while residing in the United States and shared a few training contacts with the NFL star. He decided to cold email Brees’ agent in 2020 to see if he’d be interested in endorsing his DFS product, and it was an immediate fit for both parties.

“He’s been very attentive and has been a great person to have involved with the brand. He definitely believed in the vision and the team that we have here, and it’s been great working with him,” said Plashkes, who played quarterback in high school in the San Diego area and afterward at Bates College in Maine.

Brees is also an ambassador for PointsBet, which has been operating in Ontario since the launch of the regulated market on April 4.