The Canadian men's national soccer team hasn’t played in the World Cup since 1986, but that hasn’t stopped some bettors in the country from hammering the Reds in their first game back against one of the heavier favourites in the tournament.
According to some online sports betting sites that are available in Canada, local punters are all over the national team, including with wagers on the squad to upset Belgium in Wednesday’s match.
There are three bets on Canada for every one bet on Belgium at Sports Interaction, said Phill Gray, the book’s head of trading operations. Furthermore, there is about three times the handle there usually is on any soccer betting market if it includes Canada, Gray added.
SIA is also sitting on another huge liability connected to Canada.
If the national team were to win the entire 2022 World Cup, it would cost the book three times as much as it paid out combined for Tigers Woods’ 2019 win at the Masters, Tampa Bay’s 2020 Super Bowl victory, and the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 NBA Championship.
“World Cup is a big revenue generator compared to any other soccer, [and] with Canada involved obviously even bigger,” Gray said in an email.
Out west, British Columbia Lottery Corp. said last week that local bettors were smashing the 41st-ranked Canadian side.
BCLC reported 99% of bets on the company's PlayNow site were on the Canadian team advancing beyond the group stage and that 82% of bets were on Canada winning Group F outright. In addition, 33% of bets on the winner of the whole World Cup on the platform were on Canada.
Not everyone's a believer
And yet Canada is facing some steep challenges in Qatar.
Belgium's World Cup odds are somewhere around +1,600 and +2,000, while Canada's are +15,000 or higher. Canada's odds of winning Wednesday's game in three-way markets (which include a draw) suggest pessimism as well, such as +460 at SIA as of the morning of the match.
While the sportsbook reported solid handle overall, it also said 65% to 70% of those bets were on Belgium to win Wednesday’s match, in addition to around 90% of the money. Canada had drawn 25% to 30% of bets as of around noon on Wednesday, while taking just 8% of the money.
And the love for Canada may not extend beyond the country's borders. DraftKings noted on Tuesday that Canada was taking just 8% of bets and 22% of the overall handle for the match against Belgium.
BetMGM also reported Wednesday morning that the overall handle on the game skewed a touch more towards Belgium, with 31% of tickets and 44% of the money on the Red Devils, who finished third in the 2018 World Cup. Canada, meanwhile, was drawing 48% of bets but just 41% of the handle. The remaining money was on a draw.
Even so, BetMGM reported last week that Canada was drawing the most tickets and handle to win its group. According to the bookmaker, which is live in Ontario, 50.7% of bets and 62.2% of the money were on Canada to advance from Group F, making the country BetMGM's biggest liability for that market.
BetRivers also claimed last Friday that Canada was its third-biggest liability to win the World Cup outright, behind just Mexico and the United States, and even though the country's odds were north of +30,000. BetRivers is available in Ontario as well.
A new era
Interest in Canada is being fuelled not just by the country's enthusiasm for the return to the World Cup, but because federal lawmakers decriminalized single-game sports betting last year, paving the way for plenty of action on a lone match.
In the wake of that move, Canada's most populous province launched a competitive and regulated market for internet gambling in April, which is the first of its kind for the country. As a result, there are now 20 legal providers of sports betting sites in Ontario, including the government-owned lottery.
FanDuel is one of the books to launch in Ontario's regulated iGaming market. And, as of Monday, the operator said Canada had drawn the most bets of any team in Group F to advance to the next round of the tournament.
"Bettors are also liking Canada to make it to [the Round of 16] – we’ve seen the most bets on 'Round of 16' for Canada (+390) in their Stage of Elimination market," FanDuel added.