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Following months of contentious debate, Canada’s long road to making single-event sports wagering available appears to be inching closer to reality. In a significant measure, the ruling Liberal party is preparing to adopt another party’s wagering bill. It is the second bill raised this year and the fourth overall dealing with this key issue.
Unlike similar legislative battles in the United States, there was not as much separate opinion but rather a matter of when this move forward might take effect. An attempt to finalize single-game wagering was expected to succeed before being derailed by COVID-19. After that, a political scandal ensued, and then the prorogation of parliament.
Regarding the Canadian Criminal Code, it vaguely states rules involving what gambling activities are permissible for charitable purposes. Other forms of gambling it delegates to lottery corporations and the power it delegates to provinces. Most importantly, it lists a few specific activities that are strictly prohibited. Among them “any race or fight, or on a single sports event or athletic contest” is outlined on the list.
Last Wednesday, Minister of Justice David Lametti indicated that the Liberals plan to introduce a bill amending Canada’s Criminal Code to remove language limiting provincial gambling bodies to parlay wagers involving a minimum of three events.
Lametti held a press conference the next morning announcing that the governing Liberals will effectively be taking over the C-218 private members’ bill introduced earlier this spring by Kevin Waugh, Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood, on behalf of New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse, who represents the riding of Windsor-West, home to the Caesars Windsor casino.
The goal of the legislation is simple. It is to bring a common practice out of the shadows and into the open to make it legal, regulated, and safe.
The original sponsor of a bill to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada said he is “skeptical,” but also encouraged by similar legislation the Liberal Party government filed last Thursday. That comment from Waugh (Conservative, Saskatoon-Grasswood).
Maintaining 155 of the 338 seats, Liberals currently do not hold a majority in the House of Commons. However, single-game sports wagering has enjoyed cross-party support. Waugh and MP Masse (New Democratic Party, Windsor West) have long been the primary champions for the single-game wagering cause.
The priority of single-game betting has long been a priority for bettors in Canada, where sports wagering is currently legal. However, Canadians are only allowed to parlay, a chance to place multiple bets on a game and pick the winner for each contest. Their only current options to “single-game” bet are wagering with offshore sportsbooks, using an illegal bookmaker, or venturing across the border into the US.
The closest legal opportunities within the US are found in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Montana. Also, New York, but only at onsite locations as the state currently has no online wagering available. It is estimated that $14 billion is wagered illegally per year in Canada on sports according to the Canadian Gaming Association.
It is expected that legislation finalizing all details to begin single-game wagering in Canada should be settled early in 2021.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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