Will Canada Sports Betting Bill Squeak Through Before Deadline?

Posted on June 22, 2021
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Written By on June 22, 2021

The Senate of Canada expects to hold a final vote for a bill allowing sports betting in Canada on Tuesday.

The Senate briefly continued the debate on C-218 Monday, voting down an amendment before postponing the third reading of the bill to Tuesday. The amendment was to explicitly include the First Nations indigenous groups in the bill.

Discussion on the bill that amends the country’s Criminal Code to allow for single-event sports betting in Canada began Thursday.

Debate continues for Canada sports betting

C-218 allows single-game sports betting in Canada. Provincial lotteries can already offer parlay bets. Similar to US sports betting, regulation will fall to the individual provinces.

The House of Commons passed the bill in April. Senators had to push through a pile of official government business before arriving on the bill Thursday.

Several Senators brought forward potential issues of expanding sports betting, including match-fixing and tribal inclusion. On Thursday, the Senate voted against an amendment to establish match-fixing as a specific crime.

Monday activity for sports betting bill

In an argument defending an amendment proposed Thursday by Senator Mary Jane McCallum, Senator Marilou McPhedran said proponents of C-218 say it is a simple bill and does not need to include any specific inclusions. She argued the inclusion of the First Nations is also simple and increases the chances for overall success.

“If ever there was a single day we can be attentive to the sovereignty of First Nations, it would be today,” McPhedran said. “This bill presents us with an opportunity to act.”

“Without recognizing indigenous governments it will further entrench the material disadvantage that many indigenous councils face. further without this amendment C-218 does not give first nations a clear path to exercise their rights.”

The amendment did not pass, 43-21 with 13 abstentions. In debate, Senator Vernon White, who brought forward the match-fixing amendment, suggested other concerns would be better to focus on, including mental illness, ethics and sports, and the impact micro-betting will have on problem gamblers.

Taking Canada sports betting down to the wire

The Senate is sitting until Thursday, then will dissolve for the summer. If C-218 does not pass by then, it will need to start the legislative process over.

With the Senate voting against the two amendments, it appears the bill is poised to pass without amendments. That means C-218 can bypass a second trip to the House of Commons and head to the Governor General for Royal Assent.

Earlier this month, Senator David Wells told LSR he was “cautiously optimistic” it would pass and without amendments. As a public member bill, C-218 fell down the order of business behind government business. Those delays caused worry for those hoping it will pass.

Quick launches expected

Sensing a good chance for passage, provinces already are working on regulations.

During a Senate committee hearing in May, Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns said single-game sports betting could launch by Labor Day.

Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario have confirmed plans to launch sports betting. British Columbia will launch “almost immediately” as an expansion to the lottery system, while Ontario regulators plan a “competitive and regulated market.”

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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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