Canada’s House of Commons Responds to U.S. Sports Gambling Expansion
Article by Thomas Grenke
Recently, Canadian House of Commons members of Parliament Brian Masse and Kevin Waugh brought forward Bill C-218, or the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, as an attempt to legalize single event sports betting in Canada. The legislation 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.” This is the third time the bill, which would amend the Canadian Criminal Code, has been introduced.
Currently, Canadians can only legally bet on sporting events via parlay bets through provincial lotteries. A parlay bet is a type of bet where the bettor combines multiple individual bets into one bet or card. A parlay bet provides a participant with lower odds of winning, but a larger reward for winning. Individual bets, on the other hand, allows participants to be smarter with their picks and look to beat the closing line and use advanced stats and metrics to eke out more value. However, the Canadian Criminal Code only permits parlay betting and restricts single event betting based on the idea that allowing betting on single games jeopardizes the integrity of sports and leaves professional leagues prone to bribery and corruption.
At this time, the only way for Canadians to legally take part in single event sports betting is via international betting sites; however, with the dramatic rise of single event sports betting in the United States, the Canadian government and Canadian companies are missing out on a large, and growing, portion of the sports gambling pie. With countless US-based casino sportsbooks within close proximity to many Canadian casinos–and the dramatic rise of sports betting in the United States –many Canadian parliament members believe removing the parlay mandate would prevent Canadian dollars from flowing into the United States.
It is estimated that Canadians wager over $14 billion through illegal or offshore gambling each year, compared to just $375 million annually wagered under the parlay mandate. According to Canadian MP Waugh, “None of that [$14 billion] is subject to government regulations or taxes. None of it is creating jobs in this country or economic opportunities … [a]nd none of it is contributing to consumer protection, to education, to harm reduction and initiatives or support services, which are badly needed … in this country.”
Bill C-218 was expected to be debated and voted on over the course of the coming weeks, with an outcome expected around the start of the NHL and NBA playoffs and MLB season; however, delays over the coronavirus have not only delayed the democratic process, but also the very sporting events that Canadians would bet on.