House of Commons Approves Canada Sports Betting Bill

The Canadian government seems to have found the absolute longest road to legalizing single-event sports betting. It has taken many years to find a bill with broad approval.

It was MP Kevin Waugh of Saskatoon-Grasswood who first introduced C-218 as a bill in the first session of the 43rd Parliament in February 2020. As with most things, it got lost in the pandemic madness that took over in March 2020. But Waugh and other single-event sports betting supporters never gave up. They reinstated the bill to the second session in September 2020 for the House of Commons’ consideration.

It didn’t move to a second reading until February 2021. Since then, however, C-218 has picked up the pace a bit. And this week, it received its approval from the House of Commons, a major milestone.

The journey continues, but single-event sports betting is closer than ever for Canadians.

Votes Show Substantial Support

The bill, C-218, officially known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, is an act to amend the Canadian Criminal Code with regard to sports betting. Specifically, it will amend paragraph 207(4)(b) of that code to make it lawful for any entity licensed by the Governor in Council of that province to authorize betting on a race, fight, or sport event or athletic contest.

Currently, Canadians may only bet on parlays. Single-event wagering will significantly increase the number of people wagering on more games and activities.

  • February 17, 2021: C-218 passed a second reading in the chamber. (303 yeas, 15 nays)
  • March 26, 2021: The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights passed C-218 back to the House. It included an amendment to include bets made via pari-mutuels and agencies on horse races. (11 yeas, 0 nays)
  • April 22, 2021: C-218, with its amendment, passed a third reading in the chamber.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

Bringing Revenue to Canada

The figures have varied through the years regarding how much money Canadians spend on single-event sports betting via offshore sites or by crossing over into the United States to do so. The Canadian Gaming Association estimated that those wagers amount to $14B per year. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that the market could be worth up to $2.4B per year within just two years. Deloitte Canada reported that a regulated Canadian market could amount to $500M to $28B annually within five years of legalization.

As more American states legalize sports betting just across the Canadian border – New York, Michigan, Montana, etc. – more Canadians will provide tax dollars in those states instead of in Canadian provinces.

In this week’s House session, Waugh said, “This bill has the potential to unlock new growth opportunities, reduce illegal betting, and generate revenues for both the sporting industry and governments.”

Continually Growing Support

The Canadian Gaming Association has been the most vocal organization in support of C-218. The International Betting Integrity Association submitted a statement of support to the House Committee.

Leagues like the NBA (National Basketball Association), NHL (National Hockey League), MLB (Major League Baseball), MLS (Major League Soccer), and CFL (Canadian Football League) have expressed support for a government-regulated market.

Provincial gaming regulators spoke out in favor of C-218. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) publicly backed the bill in early February of this year. Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) followed, as did the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, and Manitoba Lotteries. Others like Loto-Quebec, Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC), Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) ,and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Association (OLG) will benefit as well.

Of course, companies are anxious to embrace a new market as well. Bragg Gaming Group expressed its hope for an end to a “decades-long prohibition” on single-event wagering. FansUnite Entertainment hailed the initial House votes. Score Media and Gaming noted the bill’s “clear cross-party support.” DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, PointsBet, Real Luck Group, Nuvei, Elys Game Technology, and Bet365 also have eyes on the new market potential.

Concerns Duly Noted

Most analysts expect that the Senate will pass C-218, with some predicting significant support as evidenced by the House vote.

Meanwhile, organizations interested in preventing gambling harm remain outspoken about the dangers of expanded gambling. The Responsible Gambling Council sent witnesses to the recent committee hearing about the bill and submitted a brief. It noted that young males are considered to be the most at-risk for developing gambling problems through sports betting. This is especially true by way of the normalization of betting due to its inclusion of sports and the emotion often surrounding people’s personal investments in games. Another danger will be the increase of marketing and advertising that can impact youth and vulnerable populations in greater numbers.

The Responsible Gambling Council offered two recommendations to go with legalized single-event sports betting:

  • Robust regulatory framework to prioritize consumer protections and accountability to the highest standards of responsible gambling.
  • Work with the Mental Health Commission Strategy to support provinces in developing strategies to support bettors and prevent gambling harm.

Even so, though, the Responsible Gambling Council supports the bill and legalized sports betting in Canada. The RGC knows it will establish perimeters and set standards for the industry.

 

 

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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