Ontario Pushing for Single-Game Sports Betting in Canada

With the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision opening the floodgates for legalized sports betting in America, there has been a push among lawmakers in Canada to seek a legal pathway to do the same in their own country.

According to the Toronto Sun, Ontario’s Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli, has asked federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to seek a legal remedy for single-game betting in Canada.

In a letter from Fedeli to Morneau, the Ontario Finance Minister wrote “Single event sports wagering is one of the fastest growing categories of gambling entertainment. In fact, in a typical year, more than 90 % of the sports dollars wagered in Nevada sportsbooks are on single event bets.”

Why is Ontario pushing for legal single-game sports betting?

Fedeli argues to Morneau that the primary reason that Canada needs to seize on the opportunity of single-game betting is that Canadian bettors are on the cusp of having several betting options in the United States to place their wagers.

With Michigan and New York planning to expand sports wagering in the next two years, Fedeli warns Morneau that when coupled with illegal gambling, Ontario could potentially lose out on millions of dollars.

“Given the absence of legal alternatives, Canadian consumers are increasingly turning to illegal, off-shore sportsbooks, or to U.S.-based casinos, which offer single event sports wagering,” Fedeli writes. “Recent estimates indicate illegal single-event sports betting generates $110 million (CDN) per year in revenue, in Ontario alone.”

With the four main sports leagues embracing gambling in the States, Fedeli argues that now is the time for Canada to create amendments to their Criminal Code to allow single-game betting.

Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has already placed his stamp of approval to the Ontario measure. “The NBA would support the province of Ontario offering this form of betting, subject to appropriate safeguards,” said Silver.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman echoed Silver’s comments. “The NHL believes that a level playing surface for sports betting is in the best interest of the NHL’s sports betting landscape,” Bettman said.

What are the odds that this measure could become law in Canada?

The chances of Canada adopting single-game betting is far better than just a few years ago. With the shifting opinion in the United States and the current system for betting in Canada, the progression to single-game betting does appear to be a natural one with strong support.

However, since criminal law in Canada is a federal matter, change has been slow in recent attempts.

In 2016, legislators attempted to expand the country’s betting laws but were thrown a surprise when recently elected liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau’s administration did not support the expansion measure.

Sean Casey, Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and attorney general, argued that the expansion to single-game betting would lead to legitimacy problems for the games.

“It is possible, as suggested by many sports leagues, that legalizing single-event sports betting could encourage gamblers to fix games,” Casey said. “The current parlay system of betting makes it unattractive to fix a game because the only way to achieve a guaranteed payout would be to rig multiple events, which would be much more difficult to accomplish. Single-event sports betting would make a fraudster’s task easier since only one event would need to be fixed.”

But in the end, with millions in revenue heading south of the border to the United States, Canada may be forced to play ball to keep their share of the gambling pie.