Canadians Currently Limited To Parlay Betting
Legal Sports Report

How Michigan Forced Its Neighbor’s Hand On Canadian Sports Betting

Michigan's impending legalization of sports betting gave Canada new sense of urgency

In what seems like an annual tradition, another bill has been filed to allow Canadian sports betting to expand to single-game wagering.

This one, though, has an American twist.

C-218 from MP Kevin Waugh would tweak existing law to allow single-game betting. Currently, Canadians can only bet parlays through legal operations.

The bill has the backing of the Candian Gaming Association. The CGA estimates C$10 billion is bet through illegal operations in Canada with another C$4 billion bet offshore. That’s compared to just C$500 million bet legally through provincial lotteries.

Michigan spurred Canadian sports betting push

The legalization of sports betting in Michigan had Canadian lawmakers pushing for change to their sports betting laws late last year.

Lawmakers, union reps for casino workers, and a local chamber of commerce met in December at Caesars Windsor to discuss options. All parties are looking for a way to put pressure on the federal government to allow single-game betting in Canada.

It would make sense that those in Ontario‘s Windsor are concerned since it’s just a bridge away from Detroit. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed sports betting into law late last year.

The law includes mobile betting as well, making it even easier for Canadians to place their bets once they cross the border.

Delay could cost Ontario money

Continuing to deny single-game betting in Canada could lead to lost money for the Ontario government. Ontario Lottery & Gaming announced it would modernize the Windsor Gaming Bundle, which includes the Caesars Windsor, where the meeting was held.

Essentially, that means the operation of that casino will be bid out to other potential operators. The bidding process will open this fall, with the winner taking over operations from Caesars in mid-2023.

But there’s no telling what the casino’s business could look like in 2023 with Michigan launching sports betting this year. Canadians skipping Caesars Windsor for mobile sports betting in Michigan could lead to significantly lower bids.

Canada missed an advantage on sports betting

Canada sports betting could have drawn plenty of business from border US states had it legalized single-game wagers. Now, the pendulum is swinging the other way.

While the opportunity isn’t what it once was, sports betting could still be significant, MP Brian Masse told the Windsor Star.

A new liberal minority government could mean single-game betting gets another chance, according to Windsor’s local MPs.

There are enough votes in the New Democratic Party to get sports betting pushed through, Masse said. If the political will was strong enough, that law could be changed in just a few weeks.

The major sports leagues are mostly behind the repeal as well.

Canadian cities primed to lose to US sportsbooks

Considering the vast majority of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the US border, there are concerns that Canada could miss out on potential tax dollars.

Most of Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario are within driving distance of either Michigan or New York. Montreal in Quebec is also just about an hour’s drive from the New York state border.

New York still has to legalize mobile sports betting before it becomes a true threat. That said, Seneca Buffalo Creek sits just by Ontario’s border and began accepting bets in December.

On the West Coast, Vancouver could be a huge feeder market for Washington state if the state were to legalize mobile sports betting. That isn’t an issue this year since a tribal-only sports betting bill is the only option left.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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