Canada Single-Game Sports Betting Gains Senate Approval

Canada Single-Game Sports Betting Gains Senate Approval
© USA Today

The Senate of Canada voted Tuesday to amend the nation’s Criminal Code and allow single-game sports betting. It could launch by end of summer.

Bill C-218 was passed in a 57-20 vote with five abstentions after the Senate, which is the upper house of the Parliament of Canada, read the bill for a third time. The victory for sports betting supporters comes on the second-to-last day of the Senate’s Parliamentary session — an absolute nail-biter. If the bill had not been read before the Senate broke for the summer, it would have been dead in the water.

The bill, which passed the House of Commons in April, will be amended into the Criminal Code within days, as soon as it receives Royal Assent from the Administrator of Canada. That step is believed to be a simple formality.

“This is a major milestone and achievement for the Canadian gaming industry,” Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, said in a news release. “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.”

Although all sports will likely be available for wagering, the NHL, NFL and CFL should be of keen interest to bettors.

A key stakeholder in Canada, theScore, applauded Tuesday’s Senate vote. Previously, the gaming and media company based in Toronto has said that the market potential for legal online gaming is between $3.8 billion and $5.4 billion.

“The Senate’s passing of Bill C-218 earlier today is a historic moment for Canada as it will legalize single event sports betting,” John Levy, theScore chairman and CEO, said in a news release. “The passing of this important legislation allows theScore, along with our fellow stakeholders, to collectively usher in a robust industry that will drive business, technology innovation, employment and economic growth while providing a safe and trusted environment in which Canadians can wager on sports.

“The forthcoming legalization of single event sports betting presents a substantial growth opportunity for our integrated media and betting business."

What’s Next in Canada?

Canada currently only allows for parlay betting through the lottery. Single-event wagering is allowed on horse races.

Single-game sports betting has been long-awaited in Canada, and provinces already have plans in place for the rollout. Following the Royal Assent, each province will have the authority to regulate single-game betting and provide licenses to operators.

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Ontario is expected to be the first province with legalized single-game sports betting, and Burns mentioned Labour Day as a potential launch during the Bank, Trade and Commerce meeting on June 2.

Now that Bill C-218 has passed Parliament, expect the provinces to move quickly to adopt rules and approve operators.

Long Road for Sports Betting in Canada

Advocates and stakeholders in the sports betting industries have been trying to get single-game wagering legalized for the better part of a decade. The first attempt was Bill C-290 in 2011 and the second, Bill C-221, in 2016. While the 2016 attempt looked promising, there was one element missing: The United States.

U.S. sports betting advocates had long been trying to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), so that sports betting could be legalized in America and regulation and licensing would be left up to each individual state.

In May 2018, PASPA was struck down, and states that legalized sports betting began seeing huge increases of revenue. After a year, only a handful of states had legalized sports betting and managed to generate over $450 million in tax revenue. The number of states legalizing sports betting and tax revenue produced have grown significantly since then.

The Impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has put a huge amount of stress on governing bodies and the states that had legalized sports betting were raking in revenue, so that prompted many states to finally jump on the sports betting bandwagon in 2020 to make up for pandemic closure losses.

This is a huge part of why Bill C-218 had a fighting chance in Canada. It is impossible to ignore the financial growth that U.S. states are seeing from sports betting and not want to achieve that in Canada.

Sports betting in Canada is worth more $14 billion per year, and much of that is being gambled in unregulated markets funneling revenue into other countries. Bill C-218 will allow provincial governments to regulate and license sports betting operators, keeping the revenue in Canada.