Single-Game Sports Wagering Could Become Legal in Canada by End of 2021

Single-Game Sports Wagering Could Become Legal in Canada by End of 2021

The end of November saw the second attempt this year to legalize single-game sports betting.
There have been a number of failed attempts, three in total, to pass this legislation in recent years, but this failure was mainly due to circumstances like Covid-19. This time around, the bill reportedly has a very good chance of becoming law as long as no curveballs stop it in its tracks.

As it stands, the current law prohibits betting on “any race or fight, or on a single sports event or athletic contest.” Bill c-218, presented to Commons in spring, would have simply redacted this paragraph and left everything as is, i.e. leaving gambling up to lottery corporations, which are in turn regulated by the provinces. The new bill proposed on Thursday, 26 November is strikingly similar with the only difference being that in the new bill, horse betting will remain prohibited for lotteries. The new bill is named C-13: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (single event sport betting).

Unlike the previous bills, this one was presented by the Minister of Justice, David Lametti. Speaking about the bill on Thursday, the Minister said that “the goal of the legislation is simple: it is to bring a common practice out of the shadows and into the open. To make it legal, regulated and safe.” This marks a difference in the history of trying to legalize single-match sports wagering since in the past, the Liberal Party seemed quite indifferent towards the issue. Previous attempts to legalize single-game betting were initiated by both the New Democratic Party and the Conservative Party of Canada. If they all come together, the bill should pass quite easily.

Sports betting companies and casinos are also in favour of this bill. John Levy, founder and CEO of TheScore, has said of the bill that “Canadians deserve a modernized and regulated sports betting market and we commend the federal government for their efforts to legalize single-event wagering. There is now clear cross-party support and strong momentum to amend Canada’s outdated federal laws and enable the legal sports betting market to flourish. As the leading mobile sports brand in Canada, we are eager to bring the Score Bet to our fans and offer them our best-in-class sports betting experience.”

If it passes, Bill C-13 will also help hundreds of people in Southern Ontario who work in the gaming industry to keep their jobs. Sports betting in the US, especially legal sportsbooks in Michigan, are posing a real risk to the many casinos that are to be found in Southern Ontario. Caesars Windsor is already warning that without a sportsbook, it will lose business to the three casinos which are right across the river in Detroit. Irek Kusmierczyk from the Liberal Party explained that “this is about protecting the 2500 jobs at Caesars Windsor. It’s also about giving the tourism sector a much-needed boost. We know the tourism sector was pounded and pummeled during COVID-19.”

He also said that a bill usually takes about three months to make its way through the legislature. In this case, what would follow is that the five provincial lottery corporations will have to see how to implement the bill and when to roll it out. This will be left up to them but expectations are that Ontario will be the first to pave the way since its casinos are the driving force behind the bill.

What is sure is that the bill would create new job opportunities while protecting Canadians from unregulated gambling sites. In the words of the Canadian Gaming Association, “the urgent need to amend the criminal code to offer safeguards to Canadians as well as an economic recovery tool for the provinces. We can’t emphasize enough how this small change to the criminal code will help communities recover from the economic devastation of the coronavirus shutdown.”

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