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Canadian Lawmakers to Discuss Possible Changes to Sports Betting Bill Thursday

Thursday stands to be a big day for those interested in seeing the expansion of legalized sports betting in Canada. A parliamentary committee is scheduled to hold a key meeting to discuss a bill that would give provinces the right to allow single-game wagering.

John Levy, CEO of theScore, testifies Tuesday during a Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights hearing on a single-game sports betting bill. The committee will meet again Thursday to discuss possible amendments to legislation. (Image: parlvu.parl.gc.ca)

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will meet Thursday at noon ET to hold a “clause-by-clause consideration” hearing on Bill C-218. The in-depth review of the proposal takes place between the second and third readings of a bill.

It’s possible the committee may offer amendments to the legislation before that third reading. At that time, the House of Commons would decide whether or not to accept the amended bill. The deadline for lawmakers to submit amendments was Tuesday afternoon.

Once a bill gets a third reading in the House, it then goes to the Senate.

Currently, Canadian law allows only parlay sports betting, meaning bettors must wager on multiple games. The bill allows provinces to legalize single-game betting and issue licenses to sports betting operators.

Kahnawake Seek Inclusion in Sports Betting

On Tuesday, the committee received testimony on the bill from several interested parties, including Canadian indigenous people.

Chief Mike Delisle Jr. of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake told committee members that reports of single-game sports betting being controlled only by only offshore and organized crime interests in Canada were untrue. The Kahnawake operates an online sportsbook in Canada that offers single-game betting as part of its gaming operations.

Delisle and Chief Gina Deer said the Kahnawake see C-218 as a “positive step” for the country’s gaming interests. However, they urged lawmakers to use the bill to undo decades of injustice instead of exacerbating them. They want the bill to recognize indigenous gaming rights and allow them to partner with sports betting operators in a similar fashion as the provinces.

“You have the power to accommodate and reconcile the interests of the crown with those indigenous peoples,” Deer said. “You have the power to urge Parliament to balance the interests of the wealthy and the powerful with the interests of indigenous communities.”

Gaming is a major source of revenue for the nation, and critical for its self-sufficiency. Since 2016, its Mohawk Online gaming operations have doubled its workforce to 60 employees. Those jobs are split evenly between nation members and outsiders. Plans call for hiring 15 more workers this year.

Horse Racing Amendment Sought

Others who spoke Tuesday include representatives of the National Hockey League and the country’s horse racing industry.

Racing stakeholders pushed for an amendment to C-218 that would mirror a similar bill filed by Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti (Liberal, LaSalle—Émard—Verdun). Lametti’s single-game sports betting bill included a provision that excluded Canadian sportsbooks from taking fixed-odds wagers on races.

Horsemen make their living off the takeout from pari-mutuel wagering at tracks. In other words, they receive a percentage of the betting pool to put toward purses for races. However, if sportsbooks offered fixed-odds betting on races, they would not be guaranteed a cut from that.

“I’m counting on the government to recognize the industry,” retired jockey Sandy Hawley told the committee. “Its hardworking people, its value, and make the right decision on the amendment… without the exclusion, it would kill the revenue string that supports the sport, all the people and the business that depend on it.”

That amendment also received support from theScore CEO John Levy.

Levy also urged members of Parliament to act quickly and pass the bill. He said millions of Canadians want to use a “safe and trusted” sports betting product, such as theScore’s app. The Canadian-based media company currently holds licenses in four US states.

Previously, Levy estimated the annual gross revenue for the online Canadian sports betting market to be upwards of US $5.4 billion.

“These gaming revenues represent a significant boost to a recovering economy, incenting job creation and regional economic development in many communities that will see direct and immediate benefits,” he said.

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