Canadian Sports Betting Bill Strikes Back

Posted on: January 6, 2016, 03:17h. 

Last updated on: January 6, 2016, 03:44h.

Candian Member of Parliament Brian Masse to introduce sports betting bill
Canadian Member of Parliament Brian Masse won a parliamentary lottery that has allowed him to put single-event sports betting back on the agenda. (Image: o.canada.com)

Canada’s single-event sports betting bill is back from the dead. New Democratic Party MP for Windsor West Brian Masse has announced he will reintroduce the bill, shelved in 2013, to the Canadian Parliament imminently.

The original legislation, known as C-290, was presented to the House of Commons back in 2011 with the aim of amending the Criminal Code to “allow for wagering on the outcome of a single sporting event, which is currently illegal in Canada.”

Canadians are currently only able to make parlay or multiple wagers via their provincial lottery providers, for which they must predict the outcomes of two or more sporting events at once. All other sports betting is illegal in Canada, although many Canucks engage with the unregulated markets with impunity.

Sponsored by now-retired NDP MP Joe Comartin, C-290 was passed by the House with all-party approval and arrived in the Senate in March 2012.

By June 2013, it was a hair’s breadth away from being passed into law, but was tabled when the most recent general election was called.

Lottery Jackpot

The bill’s reappearance on the landscape owes itself, ironically enough, to a parliamentary lottery.

No more than 30 private members’ bills (i.e., a bill that is introduced by a member of parliament, as opposed to being part of the government’s planned legislation) are permitted on the House agenda at one time, and thus their urgency is determined by a draw. Masse got lucky, his name coming seventh out of the hat.  

Masse has previously called Canada’s refusal to allow single-event sports betting a “windfall for organized crime.” A lack of choice and value in the regulated provincial sports betting markets, he says, drives bettors to the illegal, offshore markets.

Sports Betting en Masse

According to the Canadian Gaming Association, Canadians spend $450 million a year on legal parlay bets, but an estimated $10 billion illegally betting on single sporting events, some of which funds organized crime.

“It’s a great method to fight organized crime,” Masse’s predecessor Comartin said of Bill C-290 last July. “It’s just a great tool to take away a huge chunk of money from that type of criminal activity.”

Comartin also called the bill “a job creation tool, not just for this community but for a number of communities across the country.”

He said that had his bill passed it would have “created or saved” 250 jobs each at Caesars Windsor, Fallsview Casino, and Casino Niagara.

Meanwhile, rather than losing money to the illegal markets, single-event sports betting would provide extra revenue for schools and hospitals and to fund problem gambling programs, argues Masse.