Although momentum for bringing single-event sports betting to Canada hit a snag late last year, renewed efforts for legalizing the activity have picked up steam this week.
On Wednesday, Parliament members passed C-218 303-15, advancing the private-member bill authored by Conservative Kevin Waugh to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The bill received wide bipartisan support, providing the strongest indications in about a decade that single-event sports wagering could become a reality north of the border.
“I am pleased other parties joined Conservatives to make this important and common-sense change,” Waugh wrote in a statement provided to Sports Handle. “This change is supported by professional sports leagues, unions, gaming institutions, chambers of commerce, provincial governments, and many other groups.”
Legislative wrangling on sports betting
Waugh, a House member from Saskatoon-Grasswood, initially introduced his bill last year in the previous session. Weeks later, Justice Minister David Lametti entered the fray in late November when his bill, C-13, received first reading in the House. Lametti attempted to advance the bill just before Christmas, but debate on expanded access to medical assistance in dying took precedence. With strong indications of bipartisan support for the single-event sports betting, backers of the bill remained patient.
The government’s bill attempts to modify Section 202 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which prohibits single-game sports betting. Unlike teaser or parlay wagers, which require a customer to hit multiple legs of a bet, a single-event wager can be placed on championship games such as the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup. A separate provision, Section 204, includes an exemption that allows provincial governments to offer parlay wagers through a lottery scheme. For years, efforts to legalize single-event sports betting have been met with resistance on the government level.
On Thursday, the government pulled C-13 after the House speaker ruled that both bills were similar in intent, according to industry sources. Following the passage of C-218, the government moved a unanimous consent motion to remove C-13 from the order paper, a source told Sports Handle. The government did not receive unanimous consent, while the speaker ruled that C-13 could not proceed citing similarities with C-218.
Canada has moved one step closer to legalized single-event sports betting.https://t.co/tOlSkbCGev
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 18, 2021
“We remain committed to seeing this bill receive Royal Assent, and we invite all Parliamentarians to work with us to move this forward,” Rappaport wrote in a statement to Sports Handle.
A multi-billion marketplace
One prominent Canadian company, Score Media and Gaming Inc., already offers online sports betting in four U.S. states — New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa. According to estimates from theScore, an online gaming market in Canada would generate between US$3.8 billion and US$5.4 billion in annual gross gaming revenue, based on historical data extrapolated from legal online gaming markets in the U.S. and globally. Other estimates of single-event sports betting in Canada place the size of the market at as high as US$11 billion a year, according to Waugh.
Shares in theScore, which trades on the Toronto stock exchange, are up more than 54% over the last month.
Big step forward for sports bettng right here on our home turf – we can't wait… https://t.co/TXEbfT2qEa
— John Levy (@scorecommish) February 17, 2021
“As Canada’s leading mobile sports media brand with a uniquely integrated sports betting platform, we look forward to collaborating with key stakeholders as the legislative process continues, to ensure that betting reform works for all Canadians and their communities,” theScore CEO John Levy wrote in a statement.
During a previous Parliament session, C-218 was defeated during second reading. The 12-member Justice Committee is chaired by Iqra Khalid, a Liberal Party member from Mississauga-Erin Mills.
Canadian Gaming Association President & CEO Paul Burns indicated that “solid all-party support” for the bill makes him optimistic that single-event sports betting could be in place by the Super Bowl next year.
“It is fantastic to see all political parties recognize the importance of providing a safe and regulated option for Canadians when it comes to single-event sports betting,” Burns told Sports Handle.
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voted in favor of C-218 on Wednesday.