Online betting in Canada: MPs push for legalisation of single-game bets

Canadian politicians have made a third attempt to legalise single-game sports betting in Canada by introducing Bill C-218, otherwise known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.

The bill is sponsored by Conservative MP Kevin Waugh and New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse, whose two previous attempts to amend betting legislation in the Criminal Code failed to materialise.

Waugh, who has been given full control over the bill, outlined to the House of Commons how single-game sports betting already exists in Canada but the country is not reaping the rewards. 

“The Canadian single-event sports wagering industry is worth over $14bn, but most of it – like 95% of it – exists underground on the black market or through offshore websites,” said Waugh.

Approximately $10bn per year is being wagered illegally in Canada, while $4bn is wagered through offshore online betting sites.

Bill C-218 would allow for that money to benefit the Canadian economy, rather than go through the black market or overseas, as Waugh continued: “By passing this bill Mr Speaker we can put a stop to the billions of dollars going towards organised crime and put that money back into our communities.”

As it stands, Canadians can only place parlay bets through legal betting operations. Understandably frustrated by these restrictions, bettors have sought a wider range of markets and improved odds on international betting sites that accept players from Canada.

Across the border in the United States, sports betting has taken off in a big way since the Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 that struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports betting outside of Nevada.

The American Gaming Association had estimated that $150bn was being wagered illegally on sports each year until that point, and as many as 14 states plus the District of Columbia now allow online sports betting, with more states expected to follow.

An Oxford University report in 2017 concluded that the legalisation of sports betting will contribute at least $22.4bn to the United States’ gross domestic product.

The concern in Canada is that not only will they lose potential tax dollars to overseas betting sites, but also to the American states just across the border such as New York or Michigan.

Bill C-218 has the full support of the Canadian Gaming Association, with CEO Paul Burns keen to ensure that bettors are able to wager securely. 

“Amending the Criminal Code to legalise single-event sports wagering will provide provinces with the necessary tools to deliver a safe and legal option to Canadians,” said Burns.

“As well as the power to address important issues such as consumer protection while enabling economic benefits to flow to licensed gaming operators, communities and provincial governments.”

The NHL announced its first betting partner, MGM Resorts, in October 2018, while the CFL and NBA are also partnered with gambling companies and support the regulation of sports betting.

Affiliates would also welcome Bill C-218 passing into legislation, as Eskil Kvarnström, co-owner of MyBettingsites.com/ca, explains: “We recently launched our first Canadian project and while offshore online betting sites are providing excellent gambling solutions for bettors in Canada, it seems like a missed opportunity for the country not to have its own infrastructure in place that allows for fully safe and regulated single-game betting.

“The sports betting culture is prominent in Canada, and for them to follow the example set by the United States in recent years would make sense for all involved.”

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