Casino Advocates Continue Canadian Sports Betting Push

Canadian casinos and sports betting advocates have been pushing Canadian lawmakers for years to revise and update the country’s laws. The prohibition on single-event sports betting has come under new scrutiny, however, as more states in America legalize sports betting. When states on the Canadian border, like Michigan and New York, offer their own betting options, casinos north of the border may suffer even more than in the past.

Long-Running Battle for Betting

Many Canadians have long seen the writing on the wall. They knew that single-event sports betting was the wave of the future, the attraction that casinos could use to stay competitive in the Canadian and North American gambling market.

The current parlay betting allowed in Canada involves picking winning teams for multiple games, which makes it very difficult to win. And this is allowed only through lottery organizations that provide the available games for betting.

The majority of lawmakers, however, have turned down opportunities to update Canadian laws again and again, both on the provincial and national levels.

Some say that sports leagues, mostly those based in the United States like the NBA (National Basketball Association) and NHL (National Hockey League), are the primary reason that single-event sports betting has been shunned in Canada. Lobbying by the leagues has worked in Canada, as the league executives have consistently argued that single-event wagering could lead to match-fixing.

That argument worked in the United States, too, until the US Supreme Court overturned a sports betting law in 2018. That ruling allowed every state in America to legalize sports betting, and they have done it in droves. By the end of 2019, not even two years after the court ruling, this was the status of the states:

  • 14 states with full-scale legalized sports betting
  • 7 states with laws passed but implementation pending
  • 24 states with proposals introduced to lawmakers for consideration

In the first weeks of 2020, another several states have introduced bills, and others have renewed their efforts to legalize sports wagering in 2020.

Renewed Battle for Betting

According to CBC, there is a renewed effort to change Canadian laws. And a part of that effort comes in the form of a warning.

New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse said the Liberals controlling government must respond to new American states’ legalization of sports betting by doing the same. He says that casinos like Caesars Windsor and Fallsview in Niagara depend on US gamblers, but if they stay are able to bet on sports south of the border, they may have little need to gamble in Canada.

Masse is urging the House of Commons to consider the bill he introduced to revise Canada’s criminal code to end the prohibition of single-event sports betting.

“We are in a lose-lose position right now,” he told CBC. “We would have been ahead of the curve if we had actually defined our own destiny, but instead, US courts, as expected, moved ahead and left us behind. The consequences for Canada are very high.”

Broken Campaign Promises

In 2019, several politicians made promises to work for legalized sports betting.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford put single-event sports betting, along with online poker and casino gaming into his budget proposal in April. He had support from numerous lobbying groups but not from enough lawmakers to make it happen.

Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello asked for sports betting fans and supporters to get behind her campaign in October. She even did a press event in front of Caesars Windsor. As it turned out, she lost to incumbent Masse.

The Trudeau government as a whole has not come through with gambling reforms. Justice Minister David Lametti’s office said those are not “immediate priorities.”

CGA Continues to Show Need

During Pupatello’s campaign, the Canadian Gaming Association indicated support for her stance on single-event sports betting. The group issued a press release at the time to advocate further for the benefits of updated laws to that effect.

The CGA noted at the time that Canadians do wager on single sports events but they do so through illegal betting operations and bookmakers to the tune of approximately $10 billion per year. Canadians also spend more than $4 billion per year on offshore internet sports betting sites.

Canadians only spend about $500 million per year on officially-sanctioned parlay betting.

CBC spoke to Jim Lawson, who heads Woodbine Entertainment, which runs the main horse track in Toronto. “So much money is moving offshore and offshore now includes sports wagering in the US. We’re really starting to feel the pressure; it’s having a dramatic impact,” he said.

Lawson said the entire horse racing industry in Canada is facing challenges, especially those in Ontario. Much of this is due to US competition and changes in demographics. To remain competitive, sports betting provides a viable solution.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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