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Canada Sports Betting Is Underway After Senate Passage

Sports betting in Canada could kick off in months after the Canadian parliament revised the nation’s Criminal Code, thus allowing for single-game betting Tuesday.

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Image: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Sports betting in Canada could kick off in months after the Canadian parliament revised the nation’s Criminal Code, thus allowing for single-game betting Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Senate of Canada passed the C-218 bill without making any revisions. The bill was passed on a 57-20 margin with only five members absent. The debate over the bill began on Thursday and came to an end after the sitting time expired, and further discussions took place on Monday. After that, the Senate deferred the third reading and final vote for 24 hours.

The Senate’s vote comes after the House of Commons passage which took place in April. The bill will then proceed to the Governor General to be passed into law. Likely, this will happen in the next few days.

The journey towards sports betting in Canada

The Criminal Code amended will pave the way for single-game sports wagering in Canadian sportsbooks. Still, it will be regulated at a provincial level, something that the Canadian gaming industry has been doing since 1985. The regulation structure will be similar to how the US regulates sports betting.

Senator David Wells, the bill’s sponsor, spoke at great length to the Senate, discussing responsible gaming, consumer protections, and economic opportunities.

He noted that Provinces have been anticipating this change for ages now, and they are ready to leverage the opportunity quickly and responsibly. While they cannot dictate how Canada’s provincial governments should regulate such betting, they can modify the Criminal Code, which will empower them to provide for single-event sports betting in the region, he added.

Expected timelines for Canadian sports betting

C-218 is expected to pass with ease, and regulators in British Columbia and Ontario are working on the sports betting rules and regulations.

Several industry stakeholders gave the following timetables:

  • David Phillips, Alcohol and Gaming Commission’s COO of Ontario – “By the end of 2021.”
  • Steward Groumoutis from the British Columbia Lottery Commission – “Almost immediately.”
  • Paul Burns, CEO and President of the Canadian Gaming Association – “By Labor Day.”

Recent movements in legislation

Canadian provinces provided legal accumulator sports betting. However, the bets account for only CA$500 million of a predicted CA$14.5 billion in bets placed by locals on sports.

Kevin Waugh, House of Commons member, privately sponsored C-218 in early 2020. It was later taken as official legislation in late November 2020.

The bill has gone through major discussions at every stage until it was passed in April by the House of Commons. The Senate arrived at the bill’s final consideration on Thursday, despite facing some delays and fears that the bill might not reach a vote.

Amendments not approved by the senate

Senator Rob Black questioned whether the bill would protect the horse racing industry. Wells responded by indicating that the bill would protect the industry since the C-218 doesn’t allow fixed-odds horse betting.

Similarly, Senator Vernon White mentioned match-fixing and required an amendment that would make such activities a crime. The bill supporters argued that the Canadian fraud law covers the matter.

White’s amendment fell short on Thursday.

Canadian tribal issues and concerns

Several Senators raised issues regarding First Nations Indigenous groups being left out of gaming expansion.

Senator Marilou McPhedran asserted that it would be essential to pay attention to the sovereignty of the First Nations. And the current bill offers them an excellent opportunity to act.

Wells said that failing to recognize indigenous governments would lead to further material disadvantage faced by most indigenous councils. In addition, without the C-218 amendments, first nations will lack a clear path to exercise their rights.

He also added that the bill alters one part of the Criminal Code, but it doesn’t alter the regulatory framework. The existing framework assigns gaming regulation to the provincial level. According to Wells, this pushes the matter outside the scope of C-218.

On Monday, an amendment allowing First Nations to be included failed.

Expectations from Canadian betting markets

Phillips noted that Ontario would be a well-regulated and competitive gambling market. This means that there will be a lively sport betting market with numerous familiar operators trying to acquire a piece of what would equate to the 5th largest state.

The chances are that operators perceive Ontario as the best-legalized sports betting market in Canada.

British Columbia seems to be progressing toward a more monopolistic type of market. Groumoutis indicated that offerings would kick off with PlayNow.com, which currently offers accumulator bets.

In May, Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis government agency ascertained plans to bring sports betting to PlayAlberta.ca.

Who’s targeting Canada’s sports betting market?

A PwC study reveals that single-game betting could generate approximately CA$2.4 billion annually in gross gaming revenue from sports betting.

TheScore looks to secure a huge chunk of the sports betting market.

More possible operators in Canada

DraftKings partnered with NFL to include Canada, indicating a push.

  • PointsBet previously made it public Nick Sulsky would push for its Canadian expansion. The NHL also recently purchased an equity stake with the Aussie company.
  • BetMGM recently joined forces with The Hockey News and Wayne Gretzky, a possible play for Canadian hockey fans.
  • Caesars runs Caesars Windsor in Ontario.

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