Canadian Gaming Association Calls on NHL to Join Fight for Legal Single-Game Sports Betting

Posted on: November 2, 2018, 11:18h. 

Last updated on: November 2, 2018, 11:59h.

The Canadian Gaming Association CGA wants single-game sports betting to be legal in Canada and it wants the NHL’s help to make it happen.

Canadian Gaming Association
The Canadian Gaming Association estimates some $14 billion in Canadian bets are handled by the offshore markets. Legalizing single-game wagering is key to breaking the black market and the NHL can help. (Image: NHL.com)

President and CEO of the CGA Paul Burns this week called on the league to work together with Canada’s gaming industry to effect the kind of change that happened this year in the US, where the federal prohibition on sports betting was struck down by the US Supreme Court.

Currently, Canadians are only permitted to make parlay wagers -– predicting the outcome of two or more sporting events at once, via their provincial lottery operators. All other sports betting is nominally illegal in Canada, although it’s a classic “gray market,” where the populace is able to bet using unlicensed, offshore operators with relatively impunity.

The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that Canadians wager $450 million a year on legal parlay bets, while some $14 billion is handled, untaxed, by the offshore markets.

Previous Bills Defeated

There have twice been legislative efforts to legalize single-game wagering on a federal level — in 2011 and then again in 2016. Both bills were ultimately shot down with the help of influential sports leagues — particularly the NHL — which have always opposed licensed sports betting in the US and Canada.

But things have changed since May. The leagues have lost the battle south of the border. Sports betting is no longer illegal in the US at a federal level and of all the pro leagues adjusting to this new state of affairs, the NHL has arguably displayed the most “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” type of pragmatism.

This week, it signed a deal with MGM Resorts that will see it provide official data to MGM’s sports books. Meanwhile, it has permitted the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils to sign agreements that will allow for live betting odds and in-arena branding during games.

NHL Could Tip the Balance

Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Canada by far, which makes the NHL the most powerful league, with seven Canadian franchises. Its support could well be enough to push a future sports betting bill through the legislature.

“We know that Canadians enjoy single-event sports betting because they are wagering approximately $14 billion annually through illegal channels,” said Burns in an official statement.

“We invite the NHL to work with our gaming industry to bring about the changes required to realize the full economic potential of single-event sports wagering in Canada – and give Canadian fans the same experience as their US counterparts.”