Last updated: July 1, 2021
Canadian lawmakers took action in June 2021 to expand sports betting in Canada, passing C-218, a bill amending the nation’s criminal code to allow for single-game wagers. Provinces will be able to regulate sports betting, much in the same way as US states, with some expected to launch within months.
The bill received royal assent to become an official act June 30 and now awaits an effective date set by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Right now, only parlay betting (multiple events on the same ticket) is an option through provincial lotteries. This has led much of the sports betting market to migrate to illegal offshore sportsbooks.
Of the C$14.5 billion bet on sports in Canada each year, just C$500 million of that is done legally through provincial lotteries, according to the Canadian Gaming Association.
The House of Commons adopted the bill in April and the Senate of Canada passed the bill on June 22. The bill enjoys support from the executive branch as well, improving the chances that Canada will have legal sports betting options in the near future.
Regulators from several provinces, including Ontario, have confirmed plans to launch sports betting by the end of the year.
Read on for more information about the future of betting on sports in Canada.
What’s happening in Canada sports betting right now
- June 30, 2021 — Bill C-218 receives royal assent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must now set an effective date.
- June 22, 2021 — The Senate votes in favor of C-218, 57-20. That came following two days of debate with two amendments shut down.
- June 4, 2021 — C-218 moves through the Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce without any amendments, and moves into deliberation and debate from the full body of the Senate. Although members of the group had planned to consider the bill on a clause-by-clause basis, committee leadership decided to forego the more tedious procedure and simply allow the bill to move forward.
- April 22, 2021 — C-218 passes out of the House of Commons on its third reading. The bill now moves to the Senate for debate and consideration. The passage marks a significant victory for MP Kevin Waugh, who introduced the bill in 2020.
- Feb. 4, 2021 — DraftKings expands its arrangement with the National Football League to allow the DFS and sports betting company to use NFL branding and content in Canada. The company has the same opportunity in the US. The expansion represents DK’s attempt to build greater brand awareness in Canada.
- Nov. 25, 2020 — A competing bill to C-218 makes its first appearance as C-13, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (single event sports betting), is introduced by Minister of Justice David Lametti. C-13 is a government-backed measure that is virtually identical to C-218 and seeks to remove the prohibition against single-game wagering found in Section 202 of the Criminal Code. For the next few months, there are two active sports betting bills in Parliament. However, C-13 ends up stymied after this reading as Parliament members keep their attention on C-218 as the vehicle for Canadian sports betting.
- June 12, 2020 — The top five professional sports leagues in North America publicly voice their support for expanded sports betting in Canada. In a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as Canada’s minister of finance, minister of justice, and attorney general, the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and MLS argue that legal sports betting in Canada would deflate the illegal offshore betting going on in the country.
- Feb. 25, 2020 — MP Kevin Waugh of Saskatoon-Grasswood introduces C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, to Parliament. The bill would repeal the single-game wagering ban in Canada’s Criminal Code and open the decision about sports betting to each provincial government. Although the bill is a private member’s bill, it is expected to gain a great deal of traction as states bordering Canada to the south, like Michigan, New Hampshire, and New York, welcome business from Canadian residents who want to place a legal bet.
Is sports betting legal in Canada?
Yes, betting on sports is legal in Canada but with a major restriction compared to legal US sports betting. Canadians can only bet parlays, but that will change by the end of 2021.
Parliament voted to amend the Criminal Code to allow for betting on single games. The market for sports betting in Canada will look similar to what those in the United States started enjoying in 2018.
The future of sports betting in Canada
Canadian lawmakers amended the nation’s Criminal Code in 2021 to allow for single-game sports betting.
The movement started in early 2020 as a private member bill, C-218, sponsored by Kevin Waugh. It was eventually picked up as government legislation in November 2020, which suggests the issue is close to settled.
C-218 cleared Canada’s House of Commons in April 2021, moving to the next steps which could take place in summer 2021. The key part to understand about the bill is that by itself, it does not legalize sports betting throughout Canada. Similar to what happened when the US Supreme Court struck down its federal ban in 2018, this legislation allows provinces to decide individually whether they want to legalize sports wagering.
Ending the federal ban on single-game betting should change the landscape of Canadian sports betting significantly. It would mean more opportunities for bettors to bet legally and could lead to provinces opening up licensing to other operators.
What’s next for sports betting in Canada?
That depends largely on the individual provinces. Ontario regulators, for instance, have pledged to an open market. Others, like British Columbia, could just be expansions of the current lottery system.
A number of companies either have shown interest in offering sports betting in Canada or are expected to do so should the market ever open in earnest. Some of those potential Canada sportsbooks could include:
- theScore: Based in Canada, the media company best known for its scores and information platform plans to offer sports betting. theScore Bet already launched in multiple states in the US sports betting market. Executives from theScore continually express interest in what they describe as their home turf.
- DraftKings: The giant in DFS and sports betting throughout the US is expected to enter the Canadian market as well. DraftKings recently expanded its agreements with the NFL, part of which increases its access to offer DFS in Canada. That undoubtedly would lead to sports betting if available.
- Rogers: Sports betting would seem a natural fit for the media conglomerate. Sportsnet already broadcasts the NHL throughout Canada and would dovetail naturally. The company detailed its support for C-218 earlier in 2021, saying it would create jobs and revenue in Canada.
- Bell: Canada’s other media megapower unquestionably will want to get into the market for single-gamer wagering in the country as well. Experts believe Bell would be one of the companies best situated to establish a strong position in the Canada sports betting market immediately.
- Woodbine: The major entertainment company expressed its desire to enter the market in recent months as well. CEO Jim Lawson said Woodbine also would have interest in expanding access to horse racing throughout the Canadian market.
Limited online sports betting is already allowed in six provinces:
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island
Of course, these legal products all require parlay bets of two or more events. It’s unclear at this point which provinces would authorize online sports betting. There are other online options, but they are not regulated. Offshore sportsbooks take advantage of the fact that single-game betting is illegal in Canada and therefore serve the market for what bettors can’t get legally.
These offshore operators don’t pay taxes and aren’t regulated at the provincial or federal level. Sports bettors are making an additional gamble whenever they bet on these offshore sites as there’s no guarantee winning bets will be paid. Some offshore sportsbook operators have closed their operations without warning and without returning customer funds.
Canada vs. US sports betting
Right now, the sports betting markets in Canada and the United States look quite different. That will not be the case for long, though.
Every state in the US is free to decide for itself whether it wants legal sports betting within its borders. To date, more than 80% of all states at least pursued some form of legislation to bring sports betting into the legal era. The US sports betting opportunity could become enormous in a short time as the adoption of mobile wagering increases. For example, the state of New Jersey alone saw more than $6 billion wagered in a year negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As larger US states including New York and Florida embrace mobile sports betting, that likely will grow exponentially.
A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) outlined the potential effect of single-game Canada betting. Within two years of legalization, PwC estimates the market could reach up to $2.4 billion CAD. Similarly, a Deloitte Canada report recently estimated Canadians could grow their legal sports betting market to $28 billion within just five years.
Canada sports betting law
Canadian lawmakers recently repealed a law that prevents provinces from legalizing single-game sports wagering in Canada. Some provincial regulators are hoping to launch within months, possibly weeks.
Right now, only a limited version of sports betting in the form of a parlay product offered by provincial lotteries. One example is the ProLine offering in Ontario.
The Canadian Gaming Association has lobbied for more than a decade to modernize the country’s sports betting law. Momentum to change Canada sports betting law finally gained momentum when the US market opened in 2018.
As of now, Canadians looking for legal single-game options must travel to Michigan or Washington.
Legal betting options in Canada
There are legal betting options in Canada, but they all require a parlay of at least two or more wagers.
Lotteries operate sports betting at the provincial level in Canada. All provincial lotteries offer sports betting:
- Atlantic Lottery Corporation (provides sports betting to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island)
- British Columbia Lottery Corporation
- Ontario Lottery and Gaming, which offers the ProLine product most familiar to Canadian bettors
- Western Canada Lottery Corporation (provides sports betting to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as the territories of The Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut)
Ontario is primed to be the sports betting leader for Canada given its population. The province has more than 38% of Canada’s population and would be the fifth-largest US state in front of Pennsylvania.
There’s one drawback for sports betting in Ontario, though: Ontario Lottery and Gaming does not currently allow bettors to place their bets online. Toronto, the capital of Ontario, has three significant American professional teams when it comes to sports betting:
- MLB’s Blue Jays
- NBA’s Raptors
- NHL’s Maple Leafs
Ontario also borders Michigan in the United States. Legal sports betting in Michigan is available at retail locations since 2020 and online wagering sites since early 2021. That likely will increase pressure on Ontario to legalize sports betting in the near future to avoid losing potential tax dollars to Michigan.
British Columbia sports betting
British Columbia officials eagerly await the potential legalization throughout Canada. The province’s lottery is encouraging federal legislators to approve C-218 and bring legal sports betting to Canada sooner than later.
“BCLC expects single-event sports betting would generate an estimated $125 to $175 million in additional revenue through online and land-based opportunities.”
The BCLC believes legal sports wagering could be transitioned to British Columbia casinos and the PlayNow.com product already active in British Columbia.
Professional sports teams in British Columbia that could attract in a legal market include:
- NHL’s Canucks
- MLS’s Whitecaps
Most popular sports to wager on in Canada
There’d be no point in talking about popular sports in Canada if we didn’t mention hockey. There are seven National Hockey League teams based in Canada:
- Calgary Flames
- Edmonton Oilers
- Montreal Canadiens
- Ottawa Senators
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Vancouver Canucks
- Winnipeg Jets
With that many teams, hockey is sure to get its fair share of the legal Canadian sports betting market. Just like its southern neighbor, though, football will likely see the most bets across any sports. Canada has the Canadian Football League, but the National Football League is plenty popular as well. According to a January 2020 blog from Mintel, a quarter of Canadians follow the NFL, same as the CFL.
There should be some betting love given to other leagues as well. Toronto is the home to the only Canadian franchises in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.
Canada and daily fantasy sports
Daily fantasy sports are legal in Canada. The industry’s biggest operators, DraftKings and FanDuel, both operate in Canada. That means, should single-game sports betting be allowed in Canada, the two biggest US sports betting operators would also have a distinct advantage in Canada with their portfolio of DFS players.
Is horse racing legal?
Yes, horse racing and betting on horse racing is legal in every province of Canada.
The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency regulates and supervises betting on horse racing at the federal level.
Canadian sports betting timeline
2021: Parliament passed the C-218 legislation to potentially create a robust Canadian sports betting market. Some provincial regulators aim for launch by the end of the year.
2020: MP Kevin Waugh launched the third effort to end the ban on single-game sports betting in Canada. C-218 received significant support from multiple parties and was eventually picked up as a government bill in November.
2016: MP Brian Masse‘s second attempt to end the single-game ban fails.
2013: MP Brian Masse launches the first attempt to end the ban on single-game sports betting in Canada, but it fails.
Sports betting FAQ
Where can I bet?
Right now, you can bet on sports in any province or territory in Canada. Betting is only available through provincial lotteries. These bets must be parlays, although the government recently passed legalization allowing provinces to regulate single-game wagering.
Can I bet on my phone?
There are six provinces that allow online sports betting right now:
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island
All of those legal betting options are through provincial lotteries. There are some unregulated sportsbooks that serve the Canadian market. These offshore operators are not regulated at the provincial or federal level, which makes betting with those operators risky. Consumers have no legal recourse when betting with an offshore operator. That means a bettor could be denied a payout or have their account closed with funds unreturned without any recourse.