MP Kevin Waugh, whose widely supported private member’s bill to legalize single-event sports betting in Canada led to Bill C-218 being passed last summer, has criticized his home province of Saskatchewan for taking so long in moving forward with implementing the change.
The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act was passed in late June 2021 and came into force on August 27. Waugh said Saskatchewan government officials “haven’t done anything” with the file, other than pass it on to the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA).
“There’s winners and losers, and unfortunately, the province of Saskatchewan today is a loser,” Waugh said, per CBC News.
As part of an amendment to the gaming framework agreement between the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the provincial government announced in September 2021, SIGA was given the authority to develop an online site that would offer single-event sports betting. SIGA has also been granted the authority to create sportsbooks in its casinos, as well as being given a five-year period of exclusivity for regulated single-event sports betting in Saskatchewan, beyond what is offered through Sport Select.
The website is expected to launch sometime this year. In the meantime, bettors cannot place legal regulated single-event sports wagers in Saskatchewan other than through Sport Select.
Waugh said he is “a little disappointed” in the Saskatchewan government. “Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming knew this was on the agenda. They should have watched it go through the process,” he added. “There is no question Saskatchewan has dropped the ball.”
Waugh said it means that lots of Saskatchewan people are still betting offshore, with the government losing out on significant potential revenue as a result. For comparison, in November, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) announced that B.C residents had placed more than $25 million in single-event sports bets with BCLC within two months of August 27 date.
“It’s hard to get these offshore customers to play in Saskatchewan and Canada legally,” Waugh added. “It’s going to take a long time because they’ve been playing for years and many of them are still playing offshore in Saskatchewan right now because we don’t have it.”
John Towns, the manager of communications and corporate affairs for the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC), said single-event betting has accounted for around 20 per cent of Sport Select play in the Prairies and the territories since it launched in November. WCLC estimates a little over half of Sport Select players have placed single-event wagers during that time, and around one in 10 players primarily engage in single-event bets.
Towns added that since single-event betting was introduced, the amount of money bet on Sport Select is up about eight per cent. Last fiscal year, about 15 per cent of Sport Select sales, or $7.1 million, was from single-event wagers.
In response to Waugh, Lionel Tootoosis, SIGA’s senior vice-president of operations, said his organization has been very busy in preparations for launching its new offerings.
“We’re a highly-regulated industry, and we have to make sure we have everything in place and that we’re adhering to the laws and all the different parts to operating a business online,” he said.
Tootoosis said SIGA is currently in the middle of contract negotiations with a third-party provider and there should be an announcement in a few weeks, with the aim of having the new online gaming site launched sometime in the fall. He added that SIGA will also need a couple of years to determine how much it is keeping from the grey market and bringing onto its own platform.