Canada Sports Betting Inches Closer

Betting operators are closely following events in Canada as the nation’s politicians took the next step towards legalising single event sports betting.

Bill C218, known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act has now entered its final passage on the way to becoming federal law. The bill was originally tabled by the Conservative MP Kevin Waugh and Brian Masse, the MP for Windsor West, in Ontario. It received its second reading in the House of Commons earlier this month and will now enter the final review stage in the Commons.

The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) has been closely monitoring political developments and they welcomed the news in a public statement:

“The CGA is pleased that the federal government has recognised the urgent need to amend the Criminal Code to offer safeguards to Canadians as well as an economic recovery tool for the provinces.”

Earlier this year, the CGA led the way as part of a coalition of North American professional sports including the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS Soccer and Canadian Football Leagues, in a push to urge the government to fast track single sports betting in its 2021 legislative agenda. Legalisation has also earned the support of Canadian casinos, with casino sector trade unions on record as stating they feel a regulated sports betting framework could be ready by the second-half of 2021.

Even without Bill C-218, the gambling framework in Canada is due to be radically altered in 2021, after the Ontario legislative assembly approved the creation of a ‘liberalised igaming market’ in its latest budget. Supporting the changes, Ontario Premier Doug Ford emphasised that Canada’s most populous state would no longer be served through the monopoly contract of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp, as that organisation was not well placed to match the changes taking place across the border as many US states opt to legalise sports betting.

In addition, Ontario’s Treasury has estimated that roughly $500 million had been wagered by Ontario residents through unlicensed websites; a factor that was mentioned by MP Waugh in his remarks supporting Bill C-218. But proponents of sports betting will be only cautiously optimistic. Progress towards legal sports betting has been blocked before despite Commons support. Back in 2016, Bill CG90, which proposed legalisation, made it through the standard Commons reviews, but was then denied federal approval by the Liberal Party, ahead of a general election.

This time round, many hope there will be no such late challenges, and the CGA have urged politicians to pass the Bill, as a means to help bring some economic rejuvenation to areas of the country that have been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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