With the Senate of Canada’s passage of C-218 Tuesday, operators are ready for sports betting in Canada.
Following three days of debate and proposed amendments, the Senate passed the bill amending the Criminal Code to allow for single-game sports betting in Canada. The bill was passed by the House of Commons in April and began its journey in early 2020.
Now that C-218 is passed, some provincial regulators expect their markets to be live within months.
Canadian regulators expect quick sports betting launches
The first available single-game wagers will likely come from provincial lotteries, which already can offer parlay bets. British Columbia Lottery Commission Director of eGaming Stewart Groumoutis told a Senate committee it could expand PlayNow.ca “almost immediately.”
Sportsbook operators also are excited about the potential of open and competitive markets, particularly Ontario. Its population of more than 14 million people would make it the fifth-largest US state.
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario COO David Phillips told the committee his province would be a “competitive and regulated market” launching “by the end of 2021.” Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey echoed those statements, telling TSN Ontario plans “to land the framework by this fall.”
What sportsbook operators are saying
Many of the most popular sportsbooks in the US are likely to make a play for Canadian market share. Those operators kept a keen eye on the legislative movements north of the border.
They were statements ready with comments Tuesday:
- DraftKings VP of Government Affairs Griffin Finan
“DraftKings has been part of the Canadian sports culture for many years and, through legalized sports betting, the company has another opportunity to further change the way fans in the country engage with their favorite teams, players and leagues.
“While we understand there are many steps to come, we look forward to working closely with officials in each province as they continue to develop their approach to legalized sports betting. As a customer-centric company, we’re excited for the potential opportunity to deliver the DraftKings sports betting experience to Canadian sports fans.”
- PointsBet CEO Johnny Aitken
“The PointsBet team is quite happy with the news today of Bill C-218 – primed to legalize single-game sports wagering in Canada – and its continued progress, now moving to the Governor-General’s office for approval.
“As a leading global online gaming company that has clearly stated its intentions to be a prominent player in the prospective Canadian sports betting marketplace, we continue to enjoy the exciting news surrounding Bill C-218 and welcome the chance to hire homegrown Canadian talent to build a best-in-class, local team that can uniquely realize this great opportunity.”
- BetMGM company statement
“Today, the Canadian Senate passed Bill C218, repealing a federal prohibition on the conduct and operation of single-event sports wagering. BetMGM applauds today’s parliamentary vote to allow provinces the opportunity to protect consumers, promote responsible gaming, and generate revenues by regulating and taxing single-event sports wagering.
“With this change in federal law, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with provincial governments, policymakers, and regulators in crafting policy that benefits taxpayers and provinces, while safeguarding the integrity of games.
“BetMGM also applauds ongoing efforts in the province of Ontario to establish a robust, competitive, and regulated online gaming market and looks forward to participating in the Ontario licensing process.”
Homegrown theScore ready for action
The Senate sponsor for C-218, Senator David Wells, became a minor social media celebrity amongst stock watchers. He kept updates flowing on Twitter for the active retail investors hoping passage might bump the stock of Toronto-based theScore.
The stock, SCR, jumped 9% Tuesday but dropped 11% Wednesday. Executives from the company are bullish on the chances to secure a significant piece of the marketplace.
“The forthcoming legalization of single event sports betting presents a substantial growth opportunity for our integrated media and betting business,” theScore CEO John Levy said in a statement. “theScore is Canada’s leading digital sports media brand and we are eager to bring our award-winning mobile sportsbook, theScore Bet, to fans on our home turf.
‘We have been actively preparing for the expansion of online sports betting and iGaming in our home province of Ontario, which is expected to commence later this year, and we are very favorably positioned to succeed given our mobile betting experience and vast active user base.
“Further, we are excited to broaden our relationship with the millions of loyal fans who already know, trust and engage with theScore app across Canada.”
On Wednesday, theScore started a marketing campaign in Ontario to promote its sportsbook app. The launch includes three billboards and an ad placement at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto reading, “Ontario, It’s Happening. See You Soon.”
Leagues happy about Canada sports betting
In the summer of 2020, the commissioners of the NHL, NBA, MLS, NBA and the Canadian Football League sent a letter to Canadian politicians. In the letter, they publicly stated their support of expanding sports betting in Canada.
On Tuesday, the CFL released a statement in support of the passage. The league will play this season after last year was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league believes sports betting will immediately become one of its largest revenue sources, according to TSN, potentially to the tune of up to $2 million annually.
“Amending the Criminal Code in this way will move sports wagering out of the shadows and into the light of day where it belongs,” the league statement read. “We now look forward to working with the provinces as they create strong regulatory standards and enforcement, ensuring sports wagering is offered to consumers with the proper level of controls and supervision.”
The legislative aftermath in Canada
Wells and House of Commons sponsor Kevin Waugh released a joint statement following the Senate’s passage.
“This bill, once it becomes law, will make it possible for single-event sports betting to be regulated — and it will increase consumer protections and safeguards. Revenue streams going to illegal actors will dry up and be redirected to Canadian communities in a way that is legal and taxable. Funding will be available that can support issues related to problem gambling, mental health, and other important public priorities.
“This is a critical moment for Canada, as single-event sports betting will finally be brought into the light of day.”
The statement said Canadians wager C$14 billion illegally each year and the potential annual tax revenue could increase C$500 million.
Not all lawmakers happy
The one-line bill to amend the Criminal Code to allow provinces to offer single-game sports bets did face opponents.
Senator Vernon White proposed an unsuccessful amendment to address potential match-fixing issues. He still believes the simple bill leaves too much up for interpretation.
“This piece of legislation has many tentacles that could have been and should have been looked at more closely,” White said.
Several Senators are upset at a vote against explicitly including First Nations groups in the bill.