In Canada, betting on single sporting events is currently prohibited by the Criminal code via section 207 (4) (b). For the better part of the last decade, efforts have been underway to repeal the provision.
We’re glad to report that Canada is now one step closer to legalizing single-event sports betting. The reason is that just over a week ago, legislation that would legalize gambling on single games of football, hockey, and other sports returned to the House of Commons for its third reading. It has already survived a review by the Commons’ Justice and Human Rights Committee and is now set to advance to Canada’s senate.
Currently, Canadians are only allowed to make parlay wagers. This means you have to wager on at least two events. If the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (Bill C-218) becomes federal law, Canadian territories and provinces would be able to regulate in-person and online bets on the outcome of individual sports events. At present, the only single sporting event it’s possible to bet on is horse racing.
Private Members Bill
The call for changing Canadian single sports betting legislation was introduced in Parliament by Kevin Waugh. At the time, he was MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood. He introduced a private member’s bill to protect people, athletes, and the integrity of the game as well as win back customers from offshore sites, US sites, and illegal bookmakers. These entities make up what is, in effect, a multibillion-dollar black market.
According to figures from the Canadian Gaming Association, Canadians wagered an estimated C$15 billion last year. Only the smallest amount of that figure was legal. The vast majority went to illegal bookmaking operations and offshore sports wagering sites.
Deloitte Canada has suggested that within five years of becoming legal, sports betting in Canada could grow from $500 million to nearly C$28 billion in legal-market wagering. That’s a substantial potential increase in money that can be plowed back into the country.
It’s been reported that Waugh told members of the House that the Bill “has potential to unlock new growth opportunities, reduce illegal betting and generate revenue for both the sporting industry and governments.”
This private members bill might have some enthusiastic backing across all parties, but it’s not the first time such legislation has been proposed. For example, almost a decade ago, similar legislation raced through the House similarly supported by all four parties, only to fall foul of the Senate in 2015 when an election was called. A second attempt in the following year also failed after being voted down by the then-ruling Liberal Party. Fast forward a few more years to the end of 2020 when the Liberals dropped their own attempt at legislation when Waugh agreed to an amendment to keep Canada’s pari-mutuel betting system for horse racing untouched.
All that aside, this time, things look more promising. According to the Canadian Press, support has been garnered from the industry, advocates, and various athletic organizations. It appears the Liberals also fully support the changes and are eager to see things move forward.
Level Playing Field
Waugh says that the primary goal of Bill C-218 is to even the playing field globally against large foreign sites such as Bet365 and Bodog.
Yahoo Finance has reported that the bill’s advancement is fuelling a wave of investment in Canadian companies looking to take advantage of what has the potential to be a sizable base of gamblers in the country.
Companies such as Score Media and Gaming, FansUnite Entertainment, and Bragg Gaming have seen their shares rise, based on the hope that the legal betting market in Canada will follow along similar lines to the growth experienced in the US since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban in 2018.
Even major American sports betting companies such as DraftKings are keenly waiting to see that happens.
Also likely to benefit from the passing of the bill are casinos in Canada. They’ve been hard hit by COVID-19, but it could be a considerable advantage if the sports betting bill passes. However, it’s worth pointing out that even if the bill is passed, the country’s provinces will have the final say as to how single-event bets should be regulated.
The Senate sitting day has been penciled in for May 4, but before dealing with private member’s bills, the upper house of the Parliament first has to address government legislation.
Efforts to change single sports betting have been ongoing for almost a decade. The Criminal Code currently prohibits it via section 207 (4) (b). Still, things are definitely looking more favorable for the reading in the Senate and the final passing of a bill that can change gambling in Canada forever.