Canadian House Of Commons Preparing To Take Up Sports Betting Bill For Vote

With unanimous committee approval, a bill moves forward that would allow each province to decide if it wants legal single-event wagering.
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The possibility of single-event sports betting in Canada moved another step closer to becoming reality Thursday with House of Commons committee approval of the key measure to allow it.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights unanimously voted to move the bill, C-218, to the full House for a third reading and final vote. The date of that consideration has not been set.

Before acting, the committee approved an amendment sought by various representatives of the Canadian horse racing industry. The new provision is to prevent sportsbooks from offering fixed odds wagering on racing, which horsemen contended would — if allowed — harm their livelihoods tied to parimutuel betting and the purses built from it.

With that change, C-218 seems to have plenty of supporters for passage, ranging from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the British Columbia Lottery Corp. to the Canadian Football League Players Association.

And naturally, those backers include theScore, the Canadian-based sports betting and media company that hopes to profit from legalization.

It’s like the end of PASPA, only with northern twist

If enacted, the legislation would have an effect in Canada similar to the one that the U.S. Supreme Court’s PASPA decision had south of the border in May 2018.

The bill does not establish any nationwide sports betting system — it simply entitles provinces to make their own decisions whether to legalize and regulate single-event wagering in the same way as the U.S. is experiencing on a state-by-state basis. That includes Michigan’s adoption that led to retail sports wagering in 2020 and widespread online/mobile betting since January. Canada has already allowed sports betting, but only in the limited parlay betting form up to now.

For years, efforts to modify the Criminal Code of Canada to open the door to single-event sports betting have encountered resistance, but that seems to have dissipated — perhaps because of the popularity and revenue experienced by Michigan and other states adopting it in the U.S.

Billions in annual sports betting dollars are being lost to the black market in Canada instead of supporting regulated operators and provincial governments’ budgets through taxation, advocates for legalization have argued. Ontario is one of the provinces expected to be among the most eager to expand sports betting if it becomes feasible.

While the Canadian Football League has its own Grey Cup championship game, betting on the NFL’s Super Bowl and events in other U.S.-dominated leagues would be expected to be heavy as well in Canada.

If Parliament makes such betting possible, it would take many months before operators could launch — based on the provincial actions required — so it’s uncertain whether such wagers would be possible in time for the 2021 U.S. and Canadian football seasons.

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