Slow And Steady Wins The Race For Sports Betting In Canada?

Posted on June 7, 2021
Canada sports betting
Posted By on June 7, 2021

A Canadian Senate committee advanced C-218, which legalizes single-game sports betting in Canada, to the full chamber on Friday.

The Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce heard from panelists including provincial regulators and responsible gaming organizations. The committee met earlier this week with panelists from tribes, the Canadian Gaming Association and Canadian Football League.

The committee was scheduled for a meeting Wednesday for “clause-by-clause consideration,” but committee chairman Sen. Howard Wetston started the process Friday before going into a private discussion about potential amendments. Video coverage of the meeting ended before the committee returned, but the Senators moved positively on the bill as-is.

“Bill C-218 passed in committee this afternoon, in public, without amendments.  It will be presented in the chamber next week for further debate at 3rd reading,” Senate Communications Officer Ben Silverman wrote in an email to LSR.

Parliament has until the end of June to pass the bill, which amends the nation’s Criminal Code to allow for single-game sports betting in Canada. Regulation of the industry would fall to each province, the same way US sports betting falls to individual states.

Ontario sports betting up quick?

Should Parliament pass C-218, Ontario sports betting will launch by the end of 2021, according to David Phillips, the chief operating officer at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

The agency is “immersed in regulatory framework” to create a “competitive and regulated gambling market,” Phillips said.

Canada’s big opportunity

Ontario is a crown jewel for sportsbook operators in Canada. For starters, the AGCO already said it wants an open market that will allow operators like Toronto-based theScore and DraftKings, which expanded an NFL partnership in Canada earlier this year.

PointsBet hired a former executive from DFS operator Monkey Knife Fight to lead its Canadian expansion. This week, BetMGM partnered with The Hockey News, likely a play for Canadian audiences.

Operators would see a significant market opportunity, as its population of 14.6 million people would be the fifth-largest US state. Ontario also already has a vibrant gaming community with 28 land-based casinos. Toronto has teams in MLB, NBA and NHL, and shares a border with NFL teams in Detroit and Buffalo.

British Columbia bullish on sports betting

The British Columbia Lottery Commission also is working on sports betting framework. British Columbia is the third-most populous province, with the nation’s third-largest city, Vancouver.

Stewart Groumoutis, BCLC egaming director, estimates $250 million in potential tax revenue has left the province in the past five years.

Groumoutis said single-event wagering could launch “almost immediately” through its PlayNow.com, which currently offers parlay bets. He said there will be products for commercial casinos, but there are no specifics yet.

Responsible gaming backs sports betting in Canada

Responsible Gaming Council CEO Shelley White spoke in support of C-218.

White said the council is already working with the AGCO on its regulations for launch by the end of the year.

“Left unregulated as it is currently, vulnerable people are at risk,” she said. “C-218 would ensure risk mitigation strategies are in place and vulnerable people are protected.”

Lawyer Donald Bourgeois and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport President and CEO Paul Melia spoke to questions on match-fixing and how legal sports betting can strengthen integrity in sports. Questions centered on if there needs to be specific match-fixing language in the Criminal Code.

Journey of sports betting in Canada

C-218 started as a Private Member’s Bill, which often struggle to gain support. Still, the bill has pushed on throughout the session and made it out of the House of Commons on April 22.

Sponsor Kevin Waugh was not overly optimistic it would pass the Senate, pegging its chances at “50-50.”

Despite Waugh’s early hesitancy, Senators appear to be more than willing to work on the bill.

Senators more willing

Recently, Sen. Brent Cotter told the Canadian Press it has a “better than 50-50 chance” and is a pressing issue.

Sen. David Wells told TSN a final Senate reading of C-218 could occur Thursday. If the Senate passes the legislation, it could need to go back to the House before heading to the Governor-General.

Sen. Don Plett told the Globe and Mail it will be law by summer.

“If I were a betting man, I would bet the bill pass,” Plett said.

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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