Canadian Single-Event Sports Betting Introduced as Federal Government Bill
Updated November 26, 2020
By Tom Nightingale
The push to legalize sports betting in Canada has taken another step.
Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti introduced Bill C-13, "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (single-event sport betting)" in the House of Commons on November 26.
A Department of Justice statement explains that the proposed changes will give provinces and territories the ability to offer and the discretion to manage single-event sport betting and associated products in their respective jurisdictions. In provinces and territories that choose to offer single-event sport betting, Canadians would have an opportunity to engage in this activity in a regulated environment, either online or in physical facilities.
The only exception to this is horse racing. The bill would maintain the federal government’s role concerning pari-mutuel systems of betting with respect to horse racing.
Provinces including Ontario, which is also currently pushing for a liberalized iGaming market, have previously expressed their support for legalizing single-sports betting.
An "encouraging" step
In a statement, the CGA says it is pleased that the federal government has recognized the urgent need to amend the Criminal Code to offer safeguards to Canadians as well as an economic recovery tool for the provinces.
It adds that amending the Criminal Code to legalize single-event sports wagering will provide provinces with the necessary tools to deliver a safe and legal option to Canadians while ensuring the economic benefits flow to licensed gaming operators, communities, and provincial governments. "We can’t emphasize enough how this small change to the Criminal Code will help communities recover from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 shutdown," said the association.
CGA President Paul Burns said 2020 has been "a horrendous year" for the Canadian gaming industry. He emphasized that while this move would cost the federal government nothing, "it gives us another product, another channel, to help us attract customers back to our businesses when it's safe to do so."
"Sports betting is such a huge part of the online business," added Burns. "It will really just allow Canadian companies to compete. Everyone will have the same regulatory relationship. It's encouraging. The industry has been asking for this for over a decade. Substantial revenues flow to unregulated, illegal operations and offshore Internet sites without providing any financial benefits to Canadians.
"Communities like Niagara and Windsor — they're competing with sports betting across border. Now, they'll have a new product to entice customers to come back to their properties when they're able to do so, safely."
Changing the game
The association had publicly supported the legalization of single-sports betting in a statement earlier this month, noting numerous benefits of doing so.
Currently, sports bettors in Canada are limited to "parlay" bets, in which they wager on more than one game and have to pick the winning team in each contest (at low odds) to win any money form the gamble. Canadians spend roughly $500 million a year doing this via lottery games like Pro-Line. However, a huge illegal market exists; the CGA estimates that more than $4 billion is currently wagered by Canadians through offshore online sports wagering sites.
This update comes as sports betting continues to gather pace south of the border, too. In the 2020 U.S. election, six more states made further sports wagering progress, including three - Maryland, South Dakota, and Louisiana - who voted to legalize single-sports betting for the first time.
In Canada, past Private Members Bills around legalizing single-sports betting have enjoyed all-party support, something the CGA expects to be mirrored with Bill C-13. Past political opponents of the move "recognize that the world is changing underneath them, and their positions changed,” Burns said. Another CGA statement notes it expects the bill will move expediently through the process to completion
This week will see the first reading of the bill, which would allow all provinces to decide how they want to proceed with single-sports betting. The Windsor Star notes it will likely go to a second reading next week before reaching the committee stage, and then a third reading. It must still passed by both the House and Senate before becoming law.