Canada Sports Betting Bill Sponsor ‘Optimistic’ For Passage This Week

Posted on June 14, 2021
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Written By on June 14, 2021

The Senate sponsor for a bill to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada is optimistic it will pass its third reading this week.

Sen. David Wells told LSR on Friday that bill C-218 should be up for third reading on Tuesday. The bill, which amends the Criminal Code to allow single-game sports betting in Canada, was scheduled for last Thursday but fell victim to the parliamentary process.

“I’m optimistic but cautiously optimistic, things can fail based on merit or process,” Wells said. “We’re coming to the close of our parliamentary session, we won’t pick it up in July. There might be an election in the fall and Parliament is up and we begin anew.”

The bill advanced past the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce on June 4. Prior to that, other Senators were already bullish on potential passage, including Sen. Brent Cotter and Sen. Don Plett.

Private member bill still hurdle for sports betting

The parliamentary process in Canada pushed C-218 from its scheduled third reading last Thursday, keeping Canadians hopeful for legal sports betting waiting. Wells did not seem to believe that spells doom for the bill.

While C-218 was on the order paper last week, government business comes before private member bills. C-218 started as a private member bill by House of Commons member Kevin Waugh. The bill has made it through the House and all the way to third reading in the Senate, so it has progressed far, albeit slowly.

Wells appears confident he will bring the bill forward Tuesday.

C-218 straightforward nature could help

The Canada sports betting bill is not long and simply amends the Criminal Code to allow for single-game sports wagering. Similar to the US, sports betting regulation will fall to the provincial level.

That simplicity could help the bill move quickly once it is up for a vote. Wells is hopeful the bill passes with no amendments so it does not have to go back to the House and becomes law on royal assent, possibly by the end of June.

Still, there are detractors who will be in opposition to the bill. There is pushback from First Nations groups involved in gaming, and others who worry about the proliferation of gambling and its potential societal effects.

“It is straightforward, but like anything, some people will be for it and some people will be against it for their own reasons,” Wells said. “It’s not a slam dunk because we think it’s a good idea.”

Still work for Canada sports betting

Should the bill pass, provinces still need to establish regulations for sports betting before it can go live.

During recent Senate committee hearings, some timelines were outlined by various stakeholders:

  • “By the end of 2021,” David Phillips, COO at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
  • “Almost immediately,” Stewart Groumoutis, British Columbia Lottery Commission
  • “By Labor Day,” Paul Burns, President and CEO at the Canadian Gaming Association

In May, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis confirmed plans to launch sports betting.

Legal economic benefits a key driver

Wells said he sponsored the bill because it helps bring to light and legalize an activity many Canadians take part in without realizing it is illegal. He also said the financial benefits for Canada are important.

Canadians bet an estimated C$14.5 billion on sports each year. Just C$500 million is on legal parlay bets.

“If the financial benefits can flow into the country rather than out of the country, then it helps my province, helps all of the provinces and my country,” Wells said.

Surprising amount of Canadian interest

Wells became a bit of a social media star last week while tweeting process updates with Canadians turning a keen eye on the bill.

Normally not a big social media user, Wells said he recognized the higher-than-normal level of interest and wants to keep people updated. He said he cannot make assessments of what the bill does with all the speculation around sports betting stocks, but just keeps them apprised of the process.

“I’m surprised by the level of engagement,” Wells said. “Normally, an obscure Senator from Newfoundland tweeting about parliament process gets zero likes and zero comments. It’s a high level of interest. I try not to feed into it, but it’s important for them to get a chance to participate.”

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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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