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BetRivers Ontario Review 2022

This is a preview of what we can likely expect in Ontario, so we are looking at the US state versions of BetRivers, including Colorado and Illinois versions. BetRivers is owned by Rush Street Interactive, which is headquartered in Chicago.  RSI shares trade on the NYSE.  To RSI's credit, they have made several local hires in Canada as they prepared to launch here. While we like the Kambi sports betting platform upon which the BetRivers brand operates, in our opinion, the platform has been implemented far better for other licensed Ontario betting sites. In particular, it utilizes some design elements that we would prefer were removed, but we will explain the reasons for these unwanted elements.


BetRivers Canada experience from computer or tablet 

We did not find the prominent 'news feed' of 'winners' to be of any benefit whatsoever.  This is displayed on devices that are wider than a mobile phone.  We actually find this design element to be a little distracting, and not in a good way. This news feed element is actually a psychological tool used by BetRivers in order to get new players to sign up to their site even though they might not be overly familiar with their brand.  This is because BetRivers does not have much brand heritage in Ontario as it never operated in the 'grey market', and in the US it does not have the marketing budget of the largest three or four providers.  

A recent research paper showed that players search for social cues and proximity when looking to select a gaming site.  This kind of news feed display element is meant to satisfy this human desire by saying 'Hey, look at all the other people where you live that have not only signed up, but have won five bets in a row.'  It is meant to push you from a place of thinking 'I'm not so sure about BetRivers as a brand', to thinking that you can go along with the crowd, that the brand is OK and that 'people like me are winning'.  

On the positive side, BetRivers.ca will not force you to download an app in order to play from your tablet, which is far better in terms of your data privacy.  (Providers like DraftKings, FanDuel & PointsBet will probably force you to download their Ontario betting apps for mobile play.)  Otherwise, navigating sports and leagues on their version of the Kambi platform is clean and efficient.


BetRivers Ontario mobile betting - good & not so good

Several of the US entrants to the market will only offer mobile betting via apps, and do not offer a mobile site.  BetRivers.ca will not likely force you to download their mobile app in order to play from your phone like these other providers, but they will likely prompt you to do so from their mobile site in a persistent manner, which could become annoying.  

The BetRivers.com mobile site is just not our cup of tea.  We found page loads to be a bit slow.  When we would go to add a bet to our bet slip, this action was actually animated.  The button for our bet changed colour, then appeard to fly down the screen to be added to the bet slip at the base of the display, rather than simply adding the bet to the bet slip in an instant. 

While we can understand how this action could educate a novice user about how to use a mobile betting site, it becomes annoying very quickly, slowing your experience after the first time you've seen it.  If you are anything above a novice sports bettor, you likely will not appreciate this animated action. 


BetRivers Colorado shown animating the -278 orange odds tile when added to the mobile bet slip. Will this come to Ontario?

BetRivers Ontario odds margins (sportsbook hold)

BetRivers odds margins or 'sportsbook hold' for the biggest betting markets tend to vary depending on how near we are to the event in terms of time. If the event is a day or more away, the margins seem to be in the region of 5% for the most popular markets within top events for the main four sports from Canadian perspective. For example, typical 2-way betting handicap markets tend to be in the region of 1.91 or -110 on either side of the result for the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB.  However, on the day of the event, for some very popular markets, margins can get closer to 3%, which means better odds. Most sportsbooks tend to stay around 5%.  Margins for main markets on less popular events creep up to the 6% mark, which is in line with most sportsbooks. 

When we start to look at top soccer events, odds margins at BetRivers tend to vary by league. For the EPL, the 1X2 betting market can have margins between 2% and 3%, which is extremely competitive, a positive tick for them.  However, for Serie A, UCL and other top European leagues, the odds margins can blow out to 5% or 6%.  Again, margins may also get lower based on how close the match is in terms of time. Obviously the EPL is very popular, but with so many Italian soccer fans in Ontario, BetRivers might look to tweak this to offer better value here, as some other sportsbooks in the Ontario market will offer better margins. 

When we start to look at some more 'international' sports like cricket or rugby that are popular within UK and South Asian immigrant communities in Ontario, BetRivers tends to offer odds margins that are not particularly competitive, often in the 7% range.  Other top brands in the Ontario market will be in the 5% region on the main betting markets for these sports.


BetRivers.ca bonus offer

How is the BetRivers Canada bonus? We don't know just yet. Their offer in Colorado is a 100% matched deposit offer up to a maximum of $250.  While the offer itself would not be the biggest in Ontario by any stretch, we can say that the terms of the offer are reasonable if they carry over to Ontario, as it only has a wagering rollover requirement of 1X of your deposit, and the minimum odds threshold for qualifying bets is favourable at 1.50 or -200.  Many odds thresholds for qualifying bets on other bonuses can be significantly higher, thus making the bonus harder to acheive.  Another potential positive tick for BetRivers.


BetRivers approach to win limits

Again, this is a preview based on what we can see in the US, as BetRivers.ca is not yet open. From their Iowa site, in their 'Sportsbook Rules', BetRivers notes that they may limit any player to a maxmium payout of $250,000 on any parlay or combination wager (this would be the profit on the bet - not including the stake funds).  They then also refer readers to sport-specific limits further down the page for single wagers.  There you can find $50,000 win limits for all the major four US sports, plus top level soccer.  The amounts are even smaller on less popular leagues and sports.

A USD 50k limit for NFL, MLB and NBA bets is incredibly low in relative terms compared to other top providers. Several of our recommended Ontario betting sites have win limits in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per day on these same events, if not in the millions of dollars per day range.  In other words, if you are a true VIP or high stakes bettor in Ontario, you should be playing with names like bet365, Betway or BetVictor, where they have seriously high win limits.


BetRivers Canada esports coverage: nearly zero

Based on what we can see in their various US state offerings, BetRivers has slightly more than zero esports coverage. At the time of our preview in late November 2021, BetRivers was showing literally one CS:GO event upon which a user could bet, with three matches.  Within these matches, they offered only between four and seven betting markets, which is not very many relative to companies with excellent esports coverage

At the same time, several of our top Ontario providers had literally dozens of esports events across every major game, including CS:GO, DOTA2, R6, HOTS, KOG, SCII, Rocket League, Valorant and more.  Then, within all the matches for each event, there were lots of available betting markets, or ways to bet. In other words, if you are interested in esports betting from Ontario, unless they really improve their offering, BetRivers.ca won't be the betting brand for you, as they really do not provide coverage in any way that could be deemed satisfactory for an esports fan.


Other BetRivers Canada igaming types

BetRivers will assuredly be one of many available legal Ontario online casinos, which should include both RNG online casino games, and access to live casino games as run by a real person on camera.  This should be unsurprising as most licensed Ontario online sportsbooks will offer access to an array of these casino games.

What is unclear is whether or not BetRivers will offer access to gaming verticals that are less common at online sportsbooks due to their scale requirements, like online poker rooms or bingo. These iGaming verticals require so many players to be online at any given time in order to offer a good experience, which is why many companies just cannot offer them.  As such, usually only the biggest sportsbook and iGaming brands in the world can offer these gaming types. For a sportsbook that also offers access to poker, Ontario players will have access to Betsafebet365.


BetRivers.ca & Rush Street Interactive's Canadian hiring efforts

While Rush Street Interactive is a Chicago-based firm that operates its iGaming brands in regulated markets across North America, they have hired for many positions in Canada in order to have a local presence and to help tailor their product to local tastes.  In November 2021, we counted over 20 positions for which they were hiring including many developers and engineers.  They also hired former TSN anchor Dan O'Toole to run a new weekly podcast called 'Boomsies' in order to introduce their brand to Canadians and Ontarians. 


Has the BetRivers.ca parent company, RSI, ever had gaming compliance issues?

Yes they have. However, most regulated online gambling companies have been met with compliance issues in one form or another.  The real question is whether or not Rush Street Interactive is a good faith operator that fixes mistakes when out of compliance, or are they an operator that looks to skirt the rules in the name of profit, then pay the fines and face the penalties after the fact? 

We would say that RSI comes into the former category as a good faith operator, as there are few examples to find in terms of being out of compliance within their various iGaming jurisdictions. The lone example that we found had to do with a system failure in their New Jersey online casino brand, 'PlaySugarHouse', which mistakenly allowed underage players to register and wager. 

RSI found the problem and self-reported to the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, which then proceeded to fine them US$30,000. Given the wide range of offenses and fines that we have seen in the industry, this one honestly seems rooted in a mistake, which was quickly rectified, as opposed to examples from other companies that are rooted in a desire to maximize profit at the expense of vulnerable players. RSI's relatively clean record indicates an operator that is interested in regulatory compliance and treating its players with respect.


About BetRiver's parent company, Rush Street Interactive (RSI)

RSI was founded in 2012 by gaming industry veterans.  In 2016, they launched their first online casino in New Jersey, as iGaming was allowed there even before online sports betting, when PASPA fell in 2018.  RSI was then the first online casino operator to lanch in Pennsylvania. RSI's BetRivers.com was the first online gaming site to launch in the Indiana, Illinois and Colorado state markets.  They are also the first US company to gain a license to operate in Latin America with licenses in both of Mexico and Colombia.  RSI even secured a Spanish La Liga partnership for the Colombian market, since so many Columbian stars play in that league. In 2022, RSI will be live in 13 US state markets. Ontario will be their first Canadian market, as it is the only province to have created a regulated iGaming market framework.


BetRivers Ontario Bottom Line: Thumbs sideways

If their current US offering migrates north without much change, BetRivers looks like it will have what we would identify as a solid offering for the Ontario market relative to the other providers that are coming to the market, but we would not count it as our favourites, or as recommended.  The BetRivers Canada odds margins look to be pretty competitive for most typical Canadian sports fans. Their bonus offer would be average, if nicely achievable.

The betting platform is good, but it has annoying elements that do not exist on other brands that use the same sportsbook platform.  Their esports offering may well be nearly non-existent. 

While BetRivers Canada has earned some positive ticks to its name, in our opinion, there are several brands for Ontario that will have the same positive ticks, but will not have the annoying or negative aspects of their offering.

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