Canada Sports Betting

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Last updated: January 21, 2022

Single-game sports betting in Canada is now legal.

Provinces are able to regulate and tax sports wagering thanks to the passing of C-218 in Spring 2021, with multiple provincial lotteries now operating expanded sports betting products. While still limited in offerings, the single-event wagering offerings through the lotteries still have increased betting activity in Canada.

Ontario is working to open its market to commercial operators, but that will not likely happen until at least March 2022. In December, Alberta became the second province with announced intentions to open to commercial operators by releasing an initial RFP for two operators for retail sportsbook operations.

Read on for more information about the future of betting on sports in Canada.

What’s happening in Canada sports betting right now

  • January 19, 2022 — Entain and MGM Resorts confirmed plans to launch both BetMGM online sportsbook and online casino in Ontario when the province opens to commercial operators. The sportsbook and casino held a 24% market share for both categories in the US for the three months to November 2021, according to a company release.
  • January 18, 2022 — Canadian casino owner Great Canadian Gaming released a report suggesting the Ontario government could lose $2.8 billion over five years by opening to an open online gaming market. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is working on regulations to open up the market, expected to happen this spring.
  • January 14, 2022 — PointsBet Canada continues its flurry of Canadian deals by signing an exclusive deal with the fictional Trailer Park Boys. The TV show’s main characters will be featured in advertising campaigns, as well as owned content.
  • January 11, 2022 — NorthStar Gaming announced a partnership with Playtech to provide its customers with online casino and sports betting when the Ontario market opens to commercial operators later this year. The company already has an advertising and marketing partnership with Torstar Corp., the parent company of the Toronto Star and other Canadian newspapers.
  • January 10, 2022 — PointsBet Canada announced a partnership with the NHL Alumni Association to be its exclusive sports betting partner in Canada. PointsBet plans to be among the operators to launch in Ontario when the province opens up to commercial sportsbooks this year. The deal also includes status as an official partner in the United States.
  • January 4, 2022 — British Columbia-based Fandom Sports announced its peer-to-peer esports wagering platform is live. The company expects to launch sports and other iGaming offerings in 2022.

2021

  • December 20, 2021 — Penn National Gaming announced Score Digital Sports Ventures, or theScore Bet, secured Gaming Laboratories International GLI-33 certification and the sportsbook’s intentions to launch in Ontario. The market will likely launch in early 2022.
  • December 16, 2021 — Scientific Games announced it helped expand the sports betting options of the Western Canada Lottery Corp. The WCLC offers its sports betting product under the Sport Select platform in several provinces, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • December 13, 2021 — Genius Sports and the Canadian Football League agreed to a new, long-term contract. Genius secures exclusive rights to the CFL’s official data across the globe and acquired a stake in a new commercial venture by the league.
  • December 10, 2021 — Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis released an RFP for two commercial sports betting companies to operate retail sportsbooks in the province. Regulators suggest there might be additional market opportunities, including online and mobile, in the future.
  • December 9, 2021 — Industry sources told LSR the commercial Ontario sports betting market likely will not open until at least March 2022. Among the main issues regulators are working through include bringing gray market operators into the regulated market.
  • November 24, 2021 — Ontario continues to work toward opening its regulated and competitive iGaming market, along with single-event sports wagering, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of the Attorney General. Ontario Lottery and Gaming also is working on the launch of retail sportsbooks at the province’s casinos.
  • November 11, 2021 — PointsBet continues its venture to secure Canadian market share with an expansion on its curling bet. A few weeks after partnering with Curling Canada, the Australian company partnered with two national championship teams: Team Kerri Einarson and Team Kevin Koe.
  • November 1, 2021 — British Columbia Lottery Corp. announced it reached $25 million in bets on single-event sports wagering in its first few months of sports betting. The opening of single-event betting increased activity across sports in the province, including a 97% increase in NFL betting through the first seven weeks of the season.

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 previously could only bet parlays, but that changed in August 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, with each province setting its rules and regulations.

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.

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. Penn National Gaming acquired theScore Media in 2021.
  • PointsBet: The Australian-based company built out an experienced executive team for its Canadian operation, including a former Rogers Communication executive and a former daily fantasy sports operator president. The company is bullish on partnerships, like one with Curling Canada.
  • BetMGM: A top-tier operator in the US, BetMGM is targeting hockey north of the border, including deals with The Hockey News and Wayne Gretzky.
  • FanDuel: FanDuel announced a Canadian general manager in October 2021: Dale Hooper. A former CEO and president of Cannabis Compliance Inc., Hooper comes with plenty of experience in Canada regulatory matters.
  • 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 allowed in multiple provinces

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

Before August 2021, legal products all required parlay bets of two or more events. Provinces with existing lottery products largely expanded to include single-game event wagering once allowed by the federal government.

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

The sports betting markets in Canada and the United States look quite different. That will not be the case for long, though.

As of August 2021, each province in Canada can decide if it wants single-event sports betting, just like each 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.

Outside of expanded lotteries, no province in Canada has yet allowed commercial operators to launch legally. Ontario is planning to open its market in late 2021 or early 2022.

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.

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Alberta Regulators Aim To Expand Canada Sports Betting

Alberta joins Ontario as provinces looking to expand options for sports betting in Canada. Last week, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis issued a request for proposal in search of two commercial sports betting companies to operate retail sportsbooks in the western province. Until Alberta’s announcement Dec. 10, Ontario was the only province with public […] Read More
Posted on: December 16, 2021 | Regulation Sports Betting | Pat Evans

Canada sports betting law

Canadian lawmakers repealed a law that prevents provinces from legalizing single-game sports wagering in Canada in early 2021. Some provincial regulators launched expanded lottery products within months.

Previously, only a limited version of sports betting in the form of a parlay product was offered by provincial lotteries. One example is the ProLine offering in Ontario.

The Canadian Gaming Association 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.

Canadians looking for legal single-game options also can travel to Michigan or Washington.

Legal betting options in Canada

There are legal betting options in Canada. While they once required a parlay of at least two or more wagers, single-game betting in Canada is legal now.

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
  • Loto-Québec
  • 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 wagering

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.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. launched ProLine+ on Aug. 27, 2021, allowing residents to wager on single events.

Toronto, the capital of Ontario, has four significant American professional teams when it comes to sports betting:

  • MLB’s Blue Jays
  • MLS’s Toronto FC
  • 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 awaited legalization throughout Canada. The province’s lottery encouraged federal legislators to approve C-218 and bring legal sports betting to Canada sooner than later.

According to the BCLC:

“BCLC expects single-event sports betting would generate an estimated $125 million to $175 million in additional revenue through online and land-based opportunities.”

The BCLC launched an expanded PlayNow.com product as soon as it was allowed in August 2021.

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. Single-event sports betting became legal as of August 27, 2021. However, only Ontario is pursuing a more open market. The forecast calls for a launch in early 2022.

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?

You can bet parlays on sports in any province or territory in Canada. Most provincial lotteries added single-game wagering products in August 2021. Commercial operators could launch by in Ontario in early 2022. Other provinces could open up to commercial operators in the future.

Can I bet on my phone?

There are legal betting options through provincial lotteries, however, some provinces might launch commercial markets in the near future. 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.

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