Canadians Frustrated by Single Sports Betting Bill Delays

It doesn’t seem like a far reach to request that the Canadian government change its sports betting laws from parlay-style betting to single-event sports betting. Alas, it is.

There seems to be one major stumbling block that has held up proposed legislation in past years. That is the federal government, as the Trudeau administration doesn’t seem to want to take that step.

Parliament is now prorogued. Members will need to reintroduce their bills when Parliament resumes, which seems to be set for September 23. The only positive thing about the sports betting bill is that it doesn’t need to be written, only revived when the session resumes.

The negative aspect of it is that there will be no action for another few months.

Members of Parliament Tired of Waiting

The movement toward single-event sports betting began years ago but gained serious momentum when the United States Supreme Court overturned a US law called PASPA. That Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 essentially restricted single-event sports betting to Nevada, but the May 2018 court decision overturned that law. The justices deemed PASPA unconstitutional.

Almost immediately, New Jersey – the state at the center of the case – legalized sports betting and began building a regulatory system within the state. Delaware did the same. And many others followed.

As of August 2020, nearly two dozen have legalized sports betting and implemented a regulatory framework to build their industries. Some restrict their wagering options to retail only, while others have expanded to online wagering on sports.

Another 25 states have recently or are currently considering sports betting bills.

Canadian Efforts in 2020

New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse entered 2020 with a mission to legalize single-event sports betting. With casinos like Caesars Windsor and Fallsview in Niagara set to lose more business to US gambling options, it was past time to be competitive.

Masse introduced a bill to revise Canada’s criminal code that would end the prohibition of single-event sports betting.

At the end of February, Masse had a new plan. He worked with Conservative MP Kevin Waugh to combine their ideas into a single bill. Waugh officially introduced C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.

The goal of the bill was to make it lawful for provincial governments or anyone licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province to implement a betting scheme with regard to single sporting or athletic events.

Waugh first read the bill on February 25, and Masse seconded the bill.

Support Continues to Grow

When Waugh introduced his bill, the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) immediately expressed its support. The two biggest benefits to Canada, per CEO Paul Burns, were economic benefits through licensed betting and player protections. The latter pertained to so many players turning to online gambling via offshore operators not regulated in Canada.

A somewhat surprising momentum surge came in June of this year, when numerous professional sports leagues expressed their support for single-event sports wagering in Canada.

Per a joint statement from league commissioners, “The National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the Canadian Football League support an amendment to Canada’s federal laws that would authorize provinces to offer betting on single sporting events.”

Casinos and their associated unions support changes to the sports betting laws in Canada, as do horse racing tracks. For example, Woodbine Entertainment, operator of the main racetrack in Toronto, estimated approximately $400 million in lost annual profit.

Offshore and American Options

As mentioned, more states in America offering legal and regulated single-event sports betting will lure bettors across the border.

However, the largest threat to Canadian players and the potential economic benefits to provincial governments is the money players spend to gambling on offshore betting sites. The CGA estimated that Canadians wager $10 billion annually through all illegal bookmaking operations (bookies) in Canada and $4 billion on offshore sites alone.

At the same time, Canadians only gamble approximately $500 million per year through provincial lotteries with parlay betting options.

Covid and Prorogued Parliament

The last few months have been brutal on the Canadian economy. The gambling industry, as one example, took a massive hit due to casinos, gambling halls, and lottery retailers closed from mid-March through June and into July. Some have yet to open even in August.

Most provinces do offer a substantial amount of online gambling opportunities, from lottery tickets to casino games and parlay sports betting. However, the expansion of sports betting to single events would open a new market – and a massive new revenue stream – in a time when it is desperately needed.

However, the proroguing of Parliament without progress for C-218 means it must start over…at the end of September. Waugh and Masse must coordinate once again to reintroduce the bill after Parliament reconvenes on September 23.

Masse and Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy spoke to the press last Friday. They were not pleased.

According to CBC, Masse said, “We were promised in this past election that sports betting … would be an easy one to get done, and here we are a year later, more problems, more delays.”

This happened as Caesars Windsor still remains closed and only in Stage 3 of reopening. The men’s point was that the casino is one of many entities in Canada that could have used additional sports betting revenue during this time.

Masse added, “It’s a great example, though, of how we continue to miss opportunities.”


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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