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US Sports Betting Energy May Force Canadian Provinces to Act

When the United States Supreme Court handed down a monumental ruling for sports betting in May 2018, American sports fans rejoiced. Lawmakers in many individual states were anxious to tackle the issue, as the ruling essentially gave them the right to enact legislation per their constituents’ wishes. Since then, sports betting mania has taken over in the United States with may states having launched their own markets, especially those on the Canadian border. What does this mean for sports betting in Canada, though?

What Is The Current State of Sports Betting in Canada?

Current Canadian Action

There is some form of legal sports betting in most Canadian provinces. However, most wagering is offered through official providers offered via the provincial lottery corporations. The services, via internet and land-based lottery locations, are:

Ontario: Pro-Line
Quebec: Mie-O-Jeu
Nova Scotia: Pro-Line
New Brunswick: Pro-Line
Manitoba: Sport Select
British Colombia: Sports Action
Prince Edward Island: Pro-Line
Newfoundland and Labrador: Pro-Line
Saskatchewan: Pro-Line
Alberta: Sport Select

The problem for many Canadians is that there are betting limits and a ban on single-game wagering. This pushes many avid sports bettors toward other options, such as offshore betting sites. The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that Canadian bettors wager approximately $10 billion annually on offshore or unregistered sites. Meanwhile, only $500 million is wagered through lottery-affiliated options.

Canadian Gaming Association President Paul Burns insists that the Canadian Parliament must act in order to modernize gaming laws to update sports betting options. He notes that lawmakers have chosen to ignore the issue for years. All the while, provinces have been requesting action to give them more regulatory oversight and abilities to protect consumers and sports. “Clearly, there are economic impacts for gaming operators. And it really leaves the public behind,” he told CBC.

US to Offer More Options

Many Canadians currently use offshore sites for serious sports betting, as well as for their online casinos. However, they may soon have even more options. A number of the states that border Canada are currently debating sports betting and are likely to consider bills to legalize this type of wagering in early 2019.

The most likely border states to legalize sports betting in 2019 are Michigan and New York. Ohio is also a distant, but real, option. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania doesn’t share much of the border, but does now offer a plethora of sports betting, as does neighboring New Jersey.

Legal US sports betting is also receiving support from many casino giants and professional sports leagues. MGM Resorts and Eldorado Resorts have signed significant partnership deals with companies like The Stars Group and William Hill. MGM signed with the National Basketball Association (NBA), the latter signed with The Stars Group, MGM signed with the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), and the deals continue to emerge.

Canadian lotteries offering small bets on players, over/under wagers, and parlay bets will not be able to compete with the options available at American casinos. They are already losing revenue to offshore betting and gaming sites. Moreover, the new quickly-growing US gambling environment will further frustrate Canadian sports fans and bettors.

Let the Lobbying Begin

Those with an interest in growing sports betting in Canada and being a competitor in the world market are beginning to speak up. Watching the US market grow across the border has prompted some to begin addressing members of the Canadian government.

For example, when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Windsor in November to discuss trade with the US and the possibility of tariffs, she faced a question about sports betting as well. Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy told her that Michigan will be offering single-game sports betting. “We’re going to be behind once again as Michigan goes forward with it,” he told Freeland. He also insisted that allowing single-game wagering would create 150 jobs in Windsor.

Freeland responded simply, “I heard some interesting things. I’ll go back and reflect on that.”

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey asked for more than simple reflection. “We need to be a player in this,” she told Freeland. “There’s absolutely no reason not to be.”

As more in provincial politics realize the significant revenue that Canada is losing to the US and offshore sites, they will lobby their national government with more intensity. It seems that 2019 could be a pivotal year for another attempt to change the laws in favor of expanded sports betting.