Canada Introduces Sports Betting Bill in House of Commons

In a ground-breaking shift from its more conservative approach to gambling, the Canadian parliament’s lower house has introduced a bill that would expand the variety of gambling that is permitted and allow betting on single-game sporting outcomes. 

 

Sports Betting Bill and How It Will Enhance the Current Criminal Code

 

The bill, labelled C-128, was introduced by Member of Parliament Kevin Waugh from the Saskatoon-Grasswood constituency.  The aim of the bill, when passed, is to amend Canada’s current Criminal Code.  The new law would “make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race or fight or on a single sport event or athletic contest.”

 

The current Criminal Code only permits parlays or sports betting on several event outcomes combined into a single wager.  The law will safeguard against a possible perception that betting on single games could jeopardise the integrity of the actual sports and leave leagues prone to corruption.

 

Waugh admitted that it was the unprecedented growth of sports betting across the USA that spurred the parliament in Ottawa to undertake this step and amend its gaming regulation regarding sports.  

Pressure from the USA Regarding Sports Betting in Canada

US Supreme Court repealed the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018.  Following this move, over 20 US states passed legislation that governs the implementation of sports betting across their territory, including New York and Michigan.  This is specifically relevant since some of Canada’s largest casino operators and resorts are based just across the border from Niagara Falls, New York and Detroit, Michigan.   

Both Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resorts are owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Additionally, they are operated by Mohegan tribe in Connecticut, through their Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment subsidiary.  If, for example, a Canadian player at any of these two casinos wished to place a single-game sports bet, they can commute across the Niagara Falls to Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in New York.  The limitation exists since mobile sports betting is not allowed in New York state and tribal casinos there can only operate land-based betting.

Caesars Windsor is another casino that is owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.  Locals who wish to place single-game sports bets will soon be allowed to travel across to Michigan and wager at one of the three registered commercial casinos in Detroit.  Once sports betting goes live in the state of Michigan, online wagering will also be permitted.

Law That Has Been Long Overdue  

The main frustration arises from the fact that several US-based casino sportsbooks operate within proximity to the casinos in Ontario.  By removing the parlay mandate within the federal Criminal Code, Canadian MPs will prevent those gaming dollars from flowing out to the United States.   

Waugh’s sports betting legislation has garnered relatively broad support amongst other MPs and the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA).  Brain Masse, a councillor from Windsor West, is one of the most vocal proponents of Waugh’s amendment, stating his frustration with the current situation on multiple times.  Masse has repeatedly called for single-game betting to be allowed, to prevent unnecessary funnelling of Canadian dollars into the neighbouring country.       

The CGA has estimated that CA$7,5 billion is syphoned off through illegal bookies annually.  In comparison, only CA$375 million is wagered through registered province-run sports lotteries each year.  According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Gaming Association, Paul Burns, there had been legal sports wagering in Canada for decades.  At the same time, in the largest part of the United States, even parlay was not permitted (parlay betting was only allowed in Nevada and Delaware).

Move Towards a More Deregulated Gambling Industry   

The current Sports Betting Bill introduced in parliament is just a continuation of a string of legal enhancements that have made various forms of betting and gambling more accessible to Canadians.  The latest modification to sports betting laws will offer Canadian players greater choice of wagering and lead to fuller provincial and federal coffers, due to more gaming dollars staying at home.