A bill on single-event sports betting in Canada passed through second reading in the Senate on Tuesday night, overcoming another obstacle in legalizing the activity north of the border.
The bill, C-218, now heads to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce for deliberation. The legislation advanced to committee late Tuesday night following productive closed-door negotiations, multiple sources told Sports Handle.
“With today’s passing of Bill C-218 on second reading in the Senate, we are now one important step closer to legalizing single event sports betting in Canada,” TheScore CEO John Levy wrote in a statement. “Following committee, we are optimistic that Bill C-218 will be swiftly passed at third reading in the Senate, receive royal assent and become law.”
Under the Canadian parliamentary system, a bill must pass three readings in both the House of Commons and the Senate before it receives royal assent.
In April, the bill was adopted in the House after receiving unilateral support from three top Canadian parties. The legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada could generate about $10 billion annually, according to estimates from Kevin Waugh, sponsor of C-218 in the House.
Composition of Banking committee
Chaired by Sen. Howard Wetston, the committee is dominated by the Ontario senator’s Independent Senators Group. Of the 12 committee members, six maintain an affiliation with the Independent Party. Three others belong to the Conservative Party, with two more affiliated with the Canadian Senators Group. Sen. Marty Klyne, a senator from Saskatchewan, is the lone committee member of the Progressive Senate Group.
Efforts to reach Wetston’s office on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Wetston, however, may take a page out of Waugh’s playbook from House deliberations this spring. In March, Waugh’s bill was referred to the House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. There, committee members conducted extensive research on the implications of single-event sports betting under the assumption that Canada will legalize the activity. Unlike parlay wagering, which is legal in Canada in limited form, single-event betting features only one sports contest (i.e. Thursday’s Game 5 of the North Division first-round playoffs series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens).
Waugh, a former Canadian sports broadcaster, believes that single-event sports building will help the gaming sector begin the rebuilding process from the throes of COVID-19. Upon the third reading in the House, Waugh presented commentary from a wide range of stakeholders to buttress support for the decriminalization of single-game sports gambling.
Here is a snapshot of the comments Waugh presented before the House:
“The timing is right for Canada to expand sports betting. This bill has the potential to unlock new growth opportunities, reduce illegal betting and generate revenues for the sport industry and governments.”
–Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker
“It is the Responsible Gambling Council’s (RCG) neutral and independent stance that we recommend that bill C-218 be passed. This is a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from health, mental health, education, financial services and the policing sectors with the gambling industry. That will create a “Made In Canada,” responsible gambling culture comprised of evidenced, informed regulations and leading practices.”
–Responsible Gambling Council CEO Shelley White
“I think the legislation provides an opportunity to provide greater services and support to those who may become addicted to gambling than the current system where we have an unregulated market.”
–Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport President Paul Melia
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voted in favor of C-218 during a House reading of the bill earlier in the session.
After passage in the House, Waugh passed the mantle to Sen. David Wells, a Conservative from Newfoundland and Labrador. During a May 4 speech before the Senate, Wells outlined a plethora of consumer protections embedded in the bill aimed at safeguarding bettors on the legal market.
“The regulations that would be put in place around single-event sports betting are significant, tangible and desperately needed,” Wells said. “Some examples are age and identity verification to ensure minors cannot participate; information and data sharing between sports organizations, sports book operators, gaming regulators and law enforcement to protect the integrity of matches and prevent match fixing.”
Bill #C218 has been adopted at second reading in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce: https://t.co/G5goym5sXI #SenCA #cdnpoli #BANC pic.twitter.com/lY2yta2hpQ
— Senate of Canada (@SenateCA) May 26, 2021
Although C-218 ostensibly has garnered a groundswell of support, the slightest dissent could scuttle passage of the bill. Opponents can employ stalling tactics to delay debate, and with a litany of other measures before the Senate, the private member bill could be lost in the shuffle.
“You need a perfect score, not nine of 10,” Playmaker Capital CEO Jordan Gnat said this month at a Hashtag Sports webinar.
The Senate now has several weeks to pass C-218 before it adjourns for summer recess on June 25. The final day of the session may coincide with the start of the Stanley Cup Finals.