Waugh Introduces 2020 Single-Event Sports Betting Bill

Members of the Canadian Parliament have done it before. Nearly every year in the recent past, someone has introduced a bill to amend the Criminal Code with regard to sports betting. For several reasons, though, there is optimism surrounding the bill introduced by MP Kevin Waugh last week.

First Look, First Reading

The new bill is C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act. It is listed as an Act to amend the Criminal Code in favor of sports betting. Its summary is short but to the point:

“This enactment repeals paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race or fight or on a single sport event or athletic content.”

The first reading of the bill by Canadian Conservative Member Kevin Waugh of Saskatoon took place on February 25, 2020.

As the current Criminal Code states, paragraph 207(4)(b) indicates that a lottery scheme refers to “a game or any proposal, scheme, plan, means, device, contrivance or operation” regarding “bookmaking, pool selling or the making or recording of bets, including bets made through the agency of a pool or pari-mutuel system, on any race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest.”

Why, Waugh?

When Waugh introduced the bill, he noted that he found “great support across the House.” He made special note of the member from Windsor West, which is MP Brian Masse of the New Democratic Party, who seconded the bill.

Masse and MP David Cassidy had just introduced a different bill the previous week. However, after speaking with Waugh, they decided to join forces and allow the person with the best chance of passing it to take charge. Everything in Masse’s bill was incorporated into Waugh’s bill.

Waugh called it a historic moment. This introduction on February 25 was the third time the bill has been put in front of the House. He recalled that it passed the House in 2015 but not the Senate, and last year’s bill didn’t pass the House. “This is third-time lucky,” he said.

At the core of Waugh’s argument, single-event sports betting already exists. The industry that operates outside of the law and outside of Canadian regulations to cater to single-event sports bettors is worth $14 billion, according to Waugh.

The bottom line for Waugh is what it has been for so many members of Parliament who have introduced bills in past years: economic opportunities. He believes a regulated sports betting industry would deliver revenue and jobs to Canada, protect and educate consumers, and ensure that gambling harm-related information is disseminated.

Neighbors to the South

Waugh spoke to the House for less than three minutes to introduce C-218 but did not neglect to mention the proliferation of sports betting in America.

As mentioned last month when Masse began talking about plans for 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruling in 2018 set off a flurry of states legalizing sports betting at various levels. Some states have legalized it in land-based casinos or racetracks only, others have gone so far as to include online and mobile sports betting options.

By the start of 2020, there were already 14 states out of 50 with sports betting fully legalized, seven states with laws passed but implementation pending, and at least 24 states with proposals open for lawmakers to consider.

One of the states that has garnered the most attention from Canadians is Michigan, which legalized sports betting in December and plans to launch betting options this year.

The state of Washington is considering a sports betting bill again this year, New York is still working through its options, and Maine and Vermont are getting closer to doing the same. Canadians continue to find more American sports betting options across the border, as well as through offshore sites.

CGA Support

The Canadian Gaming Association has long supported efforts to legalize single-event sports wagering in Canada. When Waugh introduced his bill last week, the CGA was quick to express its full-throated support in a statement.

CEO Paul Burns noted that the bill’s passage will “provide provinces with the necessary tools to deliver a safe and legal option to Canadians, as well as the power to address important issues such as consumer protection while enabling economic benefits to flow to licensed gaming operators, communities, and provincial governments.”

The CGA estimates that Canadians wager $10 billion via illegal bookmaking operations in Canada and $4 billion via offshore sites. Only $500 million is wagered through legal provincial sports betting, which must be done on a three-game parlay basis.

Burns also noted that legalizing single-event sports wagering in Canada will “allow us to safeguard the $17.1-billion economic contribution that gaming makes to Canada, as well as the 182,500 jobs.”



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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