Sports Betting Bill C-218 Reaches Senate After Passing at Commons
April 23, 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, has progressed to the Senate after passing at the House of Commons on Thursday, April 22.
The Senate will now conduct the reading and adoption of Bill C-218 in order to legalize single-event wagering across Canada.
The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) described the progress as "a true collective effort from all parties in the House and a great day for Canada's gaming industry." The CGA also congratulated and thanked Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh "for his tireless efforts and leadership."
MP Waugh's Private Members Bill had previously passed at a House of Commons vote in a landslide on February 17 and subsequently was unanimously approved at the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Thursday, March 25. At that time, 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 Liberal Party's abandoned Bill C-13.
Bill C-218 has received all-party support and has been widely cited by advocates including MP Waugh and CGA President and CEO Paul Burns as imperative to bring customers and business back to legal avenues from offshore sites and illegal streams. Other notable advocates include the Responsible Gambling Council, Unifor, and the Canadian Olympic Committee.
On April 22, Waugh released his own statement after the passing of the Bill at the Commons.
"Last year, I introduced Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, as a common-sense change to end an outdated restriction on single-event sports betting, an industry worth $14 billion in Canada," wrote Waugh. "I am pleased that today, Bill C-218 passed the House of Commons with the support of Members of Parliament from all parties.
"The Justice Committee’s study on this bill highlighted the fact that legalizing single-event sports betting will create great economic opportunities for Canadian workers, businesses, and employees. It will also ensure that provincial governments have access to the tools necessary to properly regulate sports betting and implement consumer protection and problem gambling programs to protect Canadians.
"Given the extraordinary amount of support that this bill received from all parties in the House of Commons, I am hopeful that the Senate will consider and pass this bill quickly. Canada’s Conservatives will continue to put forward commonsense bills that create economic opportunities and help Canadians."
Justice Minister David Lametti said the Liberals "fully support these changes, and are eager to see them move forward. The changes put forward would help take illegal betting profits from single-sporting events out of the hands of organized crime, and give provinces and territories the ability to regulate and redirect the funds back into our communities."
The Senate is slated to sit again starting May 4, though it typically deals with government legislation before private members' bills.
Canada has failed to get over the line with similar bills in the past.
Similar NDP legislation received all-party support in the House nearly a decade ago but progress slowed in the Senate and the bill ultimately died when an election was called in 2015. Then, a second attempt by New Democrat MP Brian Masse also failed after the then-Liberal majority voted down his PMB in 2016.
A key difference this time around is the overwhelming support from major sports leagues. For example, the National Hockey League, previously an opponent of such legislation, has endorsed Bill C-218, as has the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the Canadian Football League.
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There is also great encouragement to be taken from what has happened with sports betting in the United States.
More than two dozen U.S. states have either legalized or moved to legalize single-event betting after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban in 2018. Many Canadian customers are thought to be lost to U.S. betting, something that it is hoped wil change with the legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada.
Waugh said the main goal of Bill C-218 is to level the track globally against large foreign sites such as Bet365 and Bodog that garner more than $4 billion from Canadian bettors each year, according to the CGA.
Casinos could also benefit, although it would be up to the provinces to decide how to regulate single-event bets.
A February report from PricewaterhouseCoopers outlined that within two years of legalized single-game wagering, the Canadian market could reach up to $2.4 billion. Deloitte Canada suggests that within five years of legalization, Canadian sports betting could grow from $500 million to nearly $28 billion in legal-market wagering.
Deloitte also predicts a booming impact beyond betting companies, citing potential opportunities everywhere from the IT industry to telecom, media, and secure payment sectors.
The advancement of C-218 has already sparked a raft of investment in Canadian business. Companies like Score Media and Gaming and FansUnite Entertainment have seen their shares rise significantly in recent months, reflecting hopes that Canada’s legal betting market will mirror the rapid growth seen in the U.S.
Score Media and Gaming CEO John Levy said after the passage of the bill: "We commend the members on all sides of the House of Commons for quickly passing this much-needed legislation. Today’s development is a major step forward and we are increasingly encouraged by the widespread industry and strong cross-party support that Bill C-218 has garnered. Now that Bill C-218 has been passed by the House, we look forward to the Senate swiftly carrying the ball over the goal line"
CGA member FansUnite's CEO Scott Burton said: "We applaud the Canadian House of Commons for advancing the legislation to legalize single event sports betting, with many members expressing their support for Bill C-218. This is another major step forward which we expect to benefit not only companies like ours, but to the growth of the entire Canadian gambling industry."