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Sports Betting Legislation Set To Resurface In Canada

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A member of Canada’s Parliament plans to revive a bill that would legalize and regulate single-sport betting in the country.

CBC News reported that Member of Parliament Brian Masse plans to reintroduce a bill that would amend the criminal code in Canada to allow single-sport betting. Parlay sports betting is already legal in the country.

The sports betting bill, back to life

Efforts to legalize single-sport betting in Canada have been around since 2011, but it has made very little in the way of progress. The bill — C-290 — continues to appear on the legislature’s website.

Even as recently as June, the bill appeared “to be on life support,” as characterized by a report at ESPN. According to the CBC report, at least some are optimistic for the bill’s chances this time around:

“We look forward to the bill being introduced by Brian,” Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Matt Marchand said. “We fully anticipate the bill will pass and we expect the Senate will carry out the will of the House.”

Masse confirmed via social media his plans, and how he wants to frame the sports betting bill:

NBA, OK with sports betting in Canada

The aforementioned ESPN report, however, noted that the NBA withdrew its opposition to the bill last year. Here’s the statement from the NBA, made to the Canadian Senate in June.

“Consistent with the NBA’s current position regarding legalized sports betting in the United States, the NBA is no longer opposed to legalized sports betting in Canada so long as there is an appropriate legislative framework that protects the integrity of the game under strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards. These would include, at a minimum, mandatory monitoring and reporting of unusual betting-line movements; a licensing protocol for betting operators; minimum-age verification measures; geo-blocking technology to ensure betting is available only where it is legal; mechanisms to identify and exclude people with gambling problems; and education about responsible gaming.”

Of course, that comes as the NBA continues to be a plaintiff in a sports betting case in New Jersey, as that state fights in court to allow sports betting. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has called for legalized and regulated sports betting in the U.S., as well, dating back to his New York Times op-ed in 2014.

Silver has indicated he prefers sports betting to be legalized nationwide in the U.S., rather than in a piecemeal fashion — part of why the league remains a plaintiff in NJ.

Could Canadian sports betting help open up the U.S.?

The idea that a Canadian sports betting expansion could lead to a similar expansion south of the border is speculative at best. After all, Canada already features limited sports betting in the form of parlay bets, while the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act limits sports betting of any type to four states. Only Nevada has single-game sports betting.

However, if single-sport betting becomes legal — and the sky subsequently doesn’t fall in a country where the major North American sports leagues (minus the NFL) have franchises — that could have a non-zero impact in the U.S.

It’s possible that could lead the non-NBA leagues to further get behind sports betting, or at least ramp down their opposition to it. Where do the leagues stand now?

  • Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred at least seem open to the idea of regulated sports betting, but have stopped short of calling for legalization.
  • The NFL has remained steadfastly against legalized sports betting, although that could be changing, based on an NFL lobbyist’s comments to ESPN.
  • The NHL has had little to say on the matter of late but appears to be generally against it, still. It offered a letter in strong opposition to C-290, per ESPN’s 2015 report.

More on where the leagues stand here.

More pertinent to the short-term legality of sports betting is the aforementioned New Jersey case. A victory for New Jersey could lead to several states quickly considering legislation to legalize sports betting in their jurisdictions.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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