The momentous passing of Bill C-218 in August 2021 means that many provinces of Canada – including Manitoba – now legally allow for single-event sports betting.
At the time of writing, there are only a couple of options when it comes to sports wagering in the region, although a number of other key industry players are thought to be readying their bids for a Manitoba gambling license if Manitoba decides to open up to operators.
You can wager on a huge range of sports at PlayNow.com, Manitoba’s own online sportsbook that is operated by the province’s regulator. Alternatively, you can head to your local SportSelect kiosk to play their games in person or make use of the facilities at the Assiniboia Downs racetrack.
Gambling in Manitoba
Gambling in Manitoba has been available in many forms since the start of the twentieth century, with casinos opening their doors for the first time, the establishment of a provincial lottery, and horse racing tracks allowing wagers to be placed on the action.
Those native to Manitoba were able to enjoy ‘seasonal’ gambling at the Winnipeg Convention Centre from 1986, before the first permanent gaming venue – the Crystal Casino – arrived three years later. That has since closed, however, there is a thriving casino sector today with a half-dozen options available. Sports betting took a little longer to be introduced. SportSelect, the first legal sports betting product in the region, was launched in 1990, with bettors able to head to their local kiosk and place their wagers in person.
As the power of the internet took hold in the noughties, the province’s industry regulator –Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (MBLL) – decided to jump on board. The fear for many Canadian provinces at the time was that bettors would access unregulated offshore bookmakers, creating a black market that would cost them millions of dollars in potential tax revenue.
So, MBLL partnered with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation to launch the PlayNow.com site in 2013. At the time, they only accepted parlay bets across a broad selection of sports, but as of the summer of 2021 that has all changed and now they welcome single sports betting too.
Legal Sports Betting in Manitoba
Sports betting has actually been available to the people of Manitoba for more than three decades, but that mostly took the form of parlay wagering. Today, with the passing of Bill C-218 in August 2021, sportsbooks in Manitoba can legally offer single-event sports betting, which is expected to drive the industry forward.
The sector is regulated by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, which will take on the power of issuing licenses to sportsbooks that they believe will stand up to scrutiny – assuming that they don’t decide to maintain their state-controlled monopoly in the future.
As the name suggests, MBLL was created firstly to ensure that alcohol sales and distribution were legal and fair. They worked separately from the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, which was responsible for overseeing lottery draws, bingo, and the burgeoning casino sector. In 2014, it was decided that Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries would take on many of the responsibilities held by the Lotteries Corporation, which meant it became the sole industry regulator.
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As we know, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries currently dominates the online sports betting scene in the province with their PlayNow product, while Sport Select has monopolized in-person wagering. However, it’s likely that major international operators will now try to establish themselves in the region following the passing of Bill C-218 – many of the leading firms already have an online presence in other Canadian provinces.
It will be up to MBLL as to whether they let the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, and bet365 come in and eat a slice of their metaphorical pie. Ultimately, Manitoba would certainly be an attractive proposition to global operators given that it has an estimated population of nearly 1.4 million, making it Canada’s fifth-most populous region. There is already a betting infrastructure, of sorts, in the province, with Winnipeg already a destination of choice for sports bettors and casino gamers.
The city is likely to be the key focus of any new land-based sportsbooks that are built in the wake of Bill C-218. Winnipeg enjoys a rich sporting heritage that has been powered by the NHL outfit Winnipeg Jets and one of the most decorated teams in Canadian Football League history – Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Fans of sports wagering in the province could always head east to Ontario if they preferred, where Ontario sports betting sites launched in April 2022. However, that requires a lot of travel time and so too would an excursion to Las Vegas or New Jersey. Winnipeg is the perfect location for the authorities to truly embrace single-sport betting in Canada.
What is interesting too is that neighbouring US states such as North Dakota and Minnesota are yet to legalize sports betting in any form, while in Montana the state has retained full control over the small number of betting available offerings. That means that prospective bettors have nowhere in their local vicinity to place their bets, so it could be concluded that Manitoba has the potential to become a gambling destination of choice. However, that may only happen if MBLL officials decide to welcome new brands to the province to ensure the market is competitive and fair, rather than solely regulator owned.
All of that being said, the good news is that even if PlayNow.com does retain its stranglehold on online sports betting in Manitoba – and SportSelect likewise on the high street, bettors are still ensured an excellent experience. Featuring a clean and modern design, the PlayNow.com site offers odds across a comprehensive range of sports and markets for both desktop and mobile users. While more competition would be great for the wagering community in Manitoba, PlayNow is an acceptable solution in the meantime.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Manitoba?
Sports betting has existed in Manitoba since the 1940s when horse racing was particularly popular. The establishment of the Manitoba Derby was the driving force behind legal horse racing wagering in the province, while lotteries and other forms of charitable betting have been allowed for decades.
But it wasn’t until 1985 when sports betting became a possibility with the amendment of the Canadian Criminal Code, which allowed for ‘controlled’ wagering via regulator-approved operators. In the first instance, this saw a handful of casinos open their doors for the first time, plus the expansion of the provincial lottery. Sports betting was legalized by the amendment of the Criminal Code, but it would be a couple of years before parlay wagering would become prominent in the region.
Under the powers of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, the first sports bets were placed in Manitoba in 1990, and that was the way the industry would remain for the best part of two decades – bettors would have to track down their local SportSelect kiosk, which in their early days were restricted to betting on just the major North American sports.
That would all change in 2013 when Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries announced a deal with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, which had launched their PlayNow.com portal almost a decade prior. Manitoba authorities were allowed to devise their own version of PlayNow, which would bring regulated online sports betting and some casino games to the province for the first time.
But perhaps the most important development for the sports betting sector in Canada will turn out to be the introduction of single-event wagering in August 2021. Until then, bettors in Manitoba were only able to place parlay bets – that is, betting coupons with two or more selections on them (it was actually three or more in many other provinces), which all have to win for the wager to be successful. That has always been an obstacle to sports betting being accepted by a wider audience in many parts of the country.
It was an amendment to the Criminal Code, and, specifically, the wording relating to controlled wagering, which saw the necessary laws changed to allow for single-event bets, and this greater accessibility – matched by, perhaps, new sportsbooks entering the province – is expected to drive the popularity of sports betting in Manitoba to whole new heights.
Betting on Manitoba Sports Teams
Sports remain as popular as ever in Manitoba, with the province’s two main hockey and football teams in Winnipeg particular favourites along with the thriving horse racing circuit.
Winnipeg Jets started life as the Atlanta Thrashers way back in 1987, becoming the NHL’s 28th new franchise. However, local firm True North Sports & Entertainment were desperate to bring elite hockey to Manitoba, and so in 2011 they set about agreeing on a deal that would see them buy out the Thrashers, before relocating them to the Canadian Life Centre (which they also own) and renaming them the Winnipeg Jets.
It took a while for the Jets to find their feet as an NHL franchise, and in five of their first six seasons they failed to even qualify for the postseason phase. However, things began to improve thereafter, and the 2017/18 campaign remains the team’s high point. They battled through the regular season and playoff bracket to reach the Western Conference Finals, where they would go down 1-4 to Vegas Golden Knights.
The improvement has been sustained, as since then the Jets have never failed to reach the postseason games. Sadly, they are still yet to progress beyond the Conference Finals.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers have enjoyed far more success in the Canadian Football League than the Jets have in the NHL. They have appeared in more Grey Cup games than any other CFL team, and after dominating in the 1900s they have since reclaimed the trophy after winning the 2019 Grey Cup 33-12 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – ending a 28-year wait for the most prized possession in Canadian football.
Playing their home games at the IG Field Stadium in Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers hold a unique place in North American sports history – they are the only team in the CFL, NHL, NBA, or NFL to be wholly community-owned, with no shareholders or commercial responsibilities other than to survive and thrive on the field.
Horse Racing in Manitoba
Horse racing has been well established in Manitoba for more than a century, although unlike some Canadian provinces the region has just one major racetrack – Assiniboia Downs. Other venues host small-scale and localized horse racing meetings. Assiniboia Downs offers a year-round schedule of events, while guests can frequent its licensed gaming lounge to play more than 100 VLTs (video lottery terminals) and place their bets via the track’s partnership with the operator HPIbet.
The racetrack also plays host to the prestigious Manitoba Derby. This thoroughbred race is the most prized in the province and was the idea of Robert James Speers – he is rightly known as the godfather of horse racing in Western Canada. Run annually since 1930, the Manitoba Derby is the most eagerly-anticipated date in the region’s racing calendar.
Casino Betting in Manitoba
The hub of the casino action in Manitoba can be found in Winnipeg, where many establishments welcome roulette and blackjack lovers. The Shark Club Gaming Centre was one of the first to open its doors in the city, and that is owned and operated by True North Sports & Entertainment – you will recall they own the Winnipeg Jets amongst other business ventures in the city.
Elsewhere, Regent City and McPhillips Station Casino offer stacks of table games and slots and are operated directly by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. All of the profits made are re-directed to educational and community projects across the province.
There are plenty of other casinos and gaming venues in Manitoba, and these are largely operated by First Nations tribes. South Beach Casino and Resort can be found in the eye-catching surroundings of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Reserve in Scanterbury, while Sand Hills Casino is operated by the Swan Lake tribe. The Aseneskak Casino in Opaskwayak, was the first tribal casino in Manitoba and is still operated to this day by the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Bettors in Manitoba can also try their luck at the Assiniboia Downs racetrack, where there are dozens of VLT machines, as well as at two separate bingo properties – Club 373 and Kinsmen Jackpot. Club 373 boasts a number of multi-game machines and poker tables, while Kinsmen Jackpot is a popular bingo hall in Winnipeg that also offers slots and games machines.
Aseneskak Casino (Opaskwayak Cree Nation)
South Beach Casino and Resort (Brokenhead Ojibway Nation)
Sand Hills Casino (Swan Lake Nation)
Regent City (Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries)
McPhillips Station Casino (Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries)
Shark Club Gaming (True North Sports & Entertainment)
Sports betting is legal in Manitoba and has been since 1985. However, the introduction of Bill C-218 means that bettors in the province can now wager on single events – rather than parlay bet slips – for the first time.
What is the minimum legal age to gamble in Manitoba?
While there is a minimum legal age of 19 to wager in many Canadian provinces, in Manitoba the legal minimum is 18.
How many casinos are in Manitoba?
There are six dedicated casinos in Manitoba. Three are operated by First Nations tribes (Aseneskak Casino, South Beach Casino, and Sand Hills Casino), two are run by the provincial regulator Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (Regent City and McPhillips Station Casino), and the final one is owned by True North Sports & Entertainment, who operate the Canadian Life Centre and who own the Winnipeg Jets. Other gaming options are available at the Assiniboia Downs racetrack, as well as the bingo venues Club 373 and Kinsmen Jackpot.
Is single-game sports betting legal in Manitoba?
As of August 2021, single-game sports event betting is legal in Manitoba. That came after the Canadian government re-wrote the Criminal Code and passed Bill C-218. Multi-sports bets have been legal in Manitoba since 1985, but now bettors have the freedom to wager on what they choose – even if that’s a single event.
Where can I bet on sports in Manitoba?
For now, sports bettors in Manitoba only have a couple of options when it comes to placing their bets. Online sports wagers can be placed at PlayNow.com, the regulator-owned sportsbook launched in 2013. In-person bets can be placed at Sport Select outlets, while there are also some betting opportunities available in the hospitality suite at the Assiniboia Downs racetrack.
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