Sports Betting Bill C-218 Unanimously Approved by House of Commons Committee
Updated March 25, 2021
By Tom Nightingale
Bill C-218, the legislation to amend the Canadian Criminal Code to legalize single-event sports betting for the first time on a province-by-province basis, was unanimously approved at the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Thursday, March 25.
MP Kevin Waugh's Private Members Bill, which passed at a House of Commons vote in a landslide on February 17, was quickly green-lit at its final hearing at the Committee after further discussions earlier this week. An amendment was made, removing the component of Bill C-218 that would have required an overhaul of Canada’s horse racing system, thus making Bill C-218 identical to the abandoned Bill C-13.
The Bill will now go back to the House for a third reading, slated to take place during the week of April 19, 2021. At that point, the House will have the opportunity to recommend other amendments to the Bill, which will then be voted on a second time by all MPs and likely sent to the Senate.
The bill received near unanimous approval by MPs the first time around. 303 voting in favour of its passage and only 15 voting against.
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John Levy, founder and CEO of Toronto-based digital media company and sportsbook theScore Media and Gaming Inc., tweeted that the approval continues the "strong momentum" for regulated sports betting in Canada. "We urge Parliament to pass this bill quickly," he added.
This week, the Standing Committee heard from additional witnesses including the Canadian Centre for Ethics on Sports, Canadian Olympic Committee, NHL, and Levy.
There, Levy had cited the various benefits that would come from expanded sports gambling options in Canada during his testimony. Levy highlighted the “thousands of jobs” and additional revenue for governments and sports teams that has been seen in the U.S. since 2018, as well as the importance of consumer protection.
"Time is of the essence with the passing of this bill," said Levy. "These gaming revenues represent a significant boost to a recovering economy, incenting job creation and regional economic development in many communities that will see direct and immediate benefits.”
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While Canada has failed to get over the line with similar bills in the past, a key difference this time around is the overwhelming support from major sports leagues.
The National Hockey League, previously an opponent of such legislation, has endorsed Bill C-218.
Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s chief business officer and senior executive vice-president of global partnerships, testified on March 23 that "though the NHL had previously opposed single events sports wagering, for the reasons we have publicly stated on the record, the practical reality is that the landscape in North America has changed. Our experience in the United States … has demonstrated that a well-regulated marketplace that both advances and protects the interests of relevant constituencies can be established in a safe and responsible manner."
Other major vocal proponents include CGA President and CEO Paul Burns, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, and the Responsible Gambling Council.
The final debate on C-218 is expected to take place in the House of Commons during the week of April 19, 2021.