Questions Remain As Canada Launches Single Sports Betting

Questions Remain As Canada Launches Single Sports Betting
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After years of waiting and several failed bids to make it happen, Canadians will finally be able to make sports wagers on single sporting events as of Friday.

However, as exciting as the arrival of this day is for Canadian sports bettors, initially at least, it isn’t going to be the panacea of wagering opportunity envisioned when Bill C-218 was passed in June, changing the Canadian Criminal Code to allow single-sports betting.

The good news? Canadian sports bettors no longer are limited to parlay wagering in which the odds are heavily stacked in favour of the house. If a bettor wants to put $20 on the Toronto Blue Jays to beat the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, they’ll be good to go – in some provinces.

The bad news? The same betting houses that restricted the Canadian betting public to those parlay bets for the past three decades remain the only bookmakers in town.

As launch day arrives, none of major private sportsbooks that populate the American market are any closer to being operational in Canada. The government, Canada’s only legal sportsbook before Friday, will continue to be Canada’s only legal sportsbook for the foreseeable future and that doesn’t sit well with some Canadian sports bettors.

“There’s still lots of questions,” acknowledged Paul Burns, president of the Canadian Gaming Association, a lobbying group that has been fighting for single sports betting in the country for decades.

“Serious sports bettors like to shop odds, so is a provincial lottery operation going to do it for everybody?”

Where Canadians Will Be Able To Bet On Sports

For the time being, the only legal and regulated betting sites that will be offering single sports betting on Friday will be those provincial lottery corporations. And only in certain provinces.

Proline+ is launching August 27, offering online and mobile sports wagering in Ontario for the first time. In British Columbia, they are tweaking the British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow online platform that already offered parlay sports wagering so that it will be able to deliver single sports betting starting on Friday.

The same holds true in Quebec. Loto-Quebec has implemented the necessary changes to their Mise-o-jeu online sports betting program to enable single sports betting to begin on Friday. Unlike the other provinces, Quebec already has the technology operational to accept single bets both online and at retail outlets.

The status of single sports betting in other Canadian provinces remains up in the air. Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis says its PlayAlberta site will offer sports betting at some point in 2021.

Likewise, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, given control over single sports betting in the province, is still working on its plan. A source indicated that SIGA is looking at implementing a province-wide sports betting app.

Manitoba piggybacks off of BC’s PlayNow site. However, in a statement, the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries would only acknowledge that they are “exploring additional opportunities where single-event sports betting could potentially be offered.”

Atlantic Lottery Corporation CEO Chris Keevil indicated that it would only require minor technological tweaks to their online gaming site in order to make single sports betting functional. He’s merely awaiting word from the governments of Canada’s four Maritime provinces – Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – for the go-ahead.

Government Control

The infamous quote from former U.S. President Ronald Reagan comes to mind. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help.”

It was one thing for bettors to anonymously fill out a Proline card and place a bet at a lottery retail kiosk. Signing up with a provincial lottery corporation’s online betting service and giving the government a window into all of their gambling action isn’t going to sit well at all with professional players.

High-end bettors aren’t going to want to use the government as their bookie.

Grey Market Isn’t Going Away

Bettors who have chosen to go with offshore betting sites rather than play parlays at government-run sites aren’t going to come rushing back just because single sports betting is available.

They’re more likely to take a wait and see approach and stay with their current betting source, especially if they’re happy with how it’s working for them – and that’s even more likely to be the case if provinces opt not to introduce private betting sites and decide to go it alone as the only source regulated and licensed single sports betting.

“If they do that, the gray market will continue to thrive,” Burns said.