Canada’s sports betting landscape is on the verge of overhaul, and it’s been a long time coming.
Bill C-218, The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, passed without amendment by a vote of 57-20 on June 22 and received Royal Assent a week later on June 29. It will imminently pass into law.
The successful vote will finally allow the Canadian gaming industry to begin working with provincial partners to offer single-event wagering to sports betting fans in a safe, regulated, and profitable environment.
In the week since Bill C-218 passed at third reading in the Senate, the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), its members, and the Canadian industry at large have welcomed what CGA President & CEO Paul Burns called “a major milestone and achievement” for the Canadian industry.
CGA thanks advocates
Burns added: “The CGA has been working to legalize single-event sports betting for more than 10 years and Bill C-218 benefited from a groundswell of broad stakeholder support from across Canada. The need for regulation, oversight, player protection, and the creation of economic benefits for Canada was understood by everyone involved in the legislative process, which is why the Bill was successfully passed.”
A CGA statement recognized the many government leaders, individuals, and organizations that played a role in the progression of the legislaton. In particular, the association thanked Kevin Waugh, MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood, the Bill’s sponsor in the House; Senator David Wells, the Bill’s sponsor in the Senate; and longtime advocate Brian Masse, MP for Windsor West. It also namechecked the late Gord Brown, MP from Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, who prior to his sudden death was “a tireless champion of single-event sports betting”.
On his part, Waugh called the passing of the bill “a win for Canadian taxpayers, workers, and sports fans.”
Carrie Kormos, Chair of the CGA, added: “The serious and thoughtful consideration of Bill C-218 by Senators and Members of Parliament will dramatically improve the ability to offer sports betting in Canada and provide an important competitive tool for an industry that has been severely impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns.”
Canada has made attempts to pass similar legislation in past years but failed to get over the line. A key difference this time around was not just all-party support for Bill C-218, but approval from a wide range of proponents including major North American sports leagues, Canadian provinces and lottery corporations, the Responsible Gambling Council, Unifor, the Canadian Olympic Committee, and Canadian First Nations.
The legislation has been widely cited by advocates including Burns as imperative to bringing customers and business back to legal avenues from offshore sites and illegal streams, and the size of the opportunity for a widened regulated Canadian sports betting market is thought to be monumental.
Deloitte estimates that Canadians might wager $7 billion initially, with the potential to grow to nearly $28 billion in legal-market wagering within five years. It also predicts a booming impact beyond betting companies, citing potential opportunities everywhere from the IT industry to telecom, media, and secure payment sectors.
Huge opportunity for sportsbooks
Multiple companies have joined the CGA in recent months with one eye on the progress of sports betting in the country, and they can now press ahead with their plans for Canadian operation.
FansUnite CEO Scott Burton said that the approval of the bill “marks a historic milestone in the global gambling industry” and thanked Burns and the CGA for their efforts.
He continued: “The legalization of this bill will provide the Canadian economy access to additional employment
opportunities, tax revenue, and a safe and regulated platform for betting options… This bill’s passing positions FansUnite to play a foundational role in the development of Canadian single sports betting and help shape the Canadian sports betting marketplace.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Rosander, the new CEO of Real Luck Group and Luckbox, emphasized that “Canada and policymakers should be congratulated on reaching a decision that will help provide safe and regulated sports betting for millions of Canadian fans. There is massive interest in wagering on sports and esports and the industry is expected to be worth billions to the nation’s economy.”
PointsBet’s new Chief Commercial Officer in Canada, Nic Sulsky, added that he “could not be more excited to help build something truly special in the greatest country in world…comprised of the world’s most passionate patriotic sports fans.”
The entire Canadian industry is looking ahead eagerly to the opportunities that await, and has been doing so for some time before the bill was ultimately approved. Numerous provinces, including Ontario and British Columbia, have long been preparing for licensing.
British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), for instance, which has been a vocal supporter of the legislation, said it is gearing up to offer single-event sports bets and bets on racing and fighting on its PlayNow.com platform, noting it will continue to prioritize player health and responsible gaming.
“This is a huge win for PlayNow.com players, and British Columbians overall,” said Lynda Cavanaugh, BCLC’s Interim President and CEO. “We’re excited to soon provide our players these new offerings on PlayNow.com, which is B.C.’s only legal gambling website and delivers important revenue back to the Province of B.C. to support things like healthcare, education and community programs.”
Canada can now finally look forward to new horizons. “There a sense of ‘finally’,” Burns added, per the Toronto Star. “We can now get on with what we’ve wanted to do for so long.”
For sportsbooks, betting operators, and punters in Canada, a world of opportunity awaits.