Liberals, Canada’s Ruling Party, File Bill to Eliminate Ban on Single-Game Sports Betting

Posted on: November 26, 2020, 01:30h. 

Last updated on: November 26, 2020, 01:59h.

The original sponsor of a bill to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada said he’s “skeptical,” but also “encouraged” by similar legislation the country’s Liberal Party government filed on Thursday

Canadian sports betting
Canadian Minister of Justice David Lametti (right) and PM Vance Badawey await questions from media at a press conference Thursday. The media gathering was announcing the Liberal Party’s plan to pursue legislation allowing single-game betting in Canada. (Image: CPAC/YouTube)

That comment from MP Kevin Waugh (Conservative, Saskatoon-Grasswood) came as Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti introduced his bill Thursday morning.

“The goal of the legislation is simple. It is to bring a common practice out of the shadows and into the open to make it legal, regulated, and safe,” Lametti said.

The bill would allow Canada’s provinces and territories the chance to offer single-game betting or license it in their jurisdiction.

With 155 of the 338 seats, Liberals don’t hold a majority in the House of Commons. However, single-game sports betting has enjoyed cross-party support. Waugh and MP Brian Masse (New Democratic Party, Windsor West) have been the primary champions for the cause.

In June, the NHL, NBA, MLB, and Canadian Football League issued a statement encouraging Canadian officials to end the ban on single-event betting.

Sports betting is currently legal in Canada. However, bettors can only avail themselves of parlay betting. As a result, Canadians who wager on single games are forced to do so by either betting with an illegal bookie, an unregulated offshore sportsbook, or by going across the border into the United States. It’s currently legal in four border states: New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, and Montana.

Lametti: Liberals Evolving on Single-Game Sports Betting

During a press conference Thursday, Lametti was asked about the party’s “about face” on single-game sports betting. Reporters noted the Liberal government previously opposed such attempts to expand gaming. Lametti said it was more an “evolution,” and credited Waugh and Masse for their efforts.

These people have been tenacious on behalf of their constituents, and they continue to advance good arguments… It shows the impact that individual MPs advocating on behalf of their constituents can have on government policy,” the minister said.

Parliament’s House of Commons held debate on Waugh’s bill earlier this month.

In his statement after Lametti’s press conference, Waugh noted that a “vast majority” of Liberals voted against repealing the criminal justice law. That would have opened the door to single-game betting in the last Parliament and shut down debate on his bill for months.

“Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that the government will move expeditiously to call this bill for debate and to implement it,” he said. “In the meantime, my colleagues and I will continue to do our part to hold the government to account on getting this change implemented.”

Woodbine Supports Fixed-Odds Racing Ban

The push for single-game sports betting also appeared to pick up support from a key stakeholder group after Lametti’s announcement.

The proposed legislation would prohibit sportsbooks from offering fixed-odds wagering on horse races. That had been a concern for Canadian racing officials.

In a statement, Woodbine Entertainment said it offered its support for fixed-odds single-event betting as long as it can participate.

“Throughout our future discussions with government authorities, we look forward to demonstrating how we can play a meaningful role in the execution of the legalization of sports betting,” Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson said. He added that the company stands ready to assert its “industry-leading experience and technology in single-event wagering, while also offering a solution that would ensure any profits derived from sports betting remain in our economy.”

Lametti’s bill would allow for online sports betting apps to offer single-game betting, as well as casinos. According to Toronto-based sports media company theScore, online betting could generate up to US$5.4 billion (CAD 7 billion) in revenues.

TheScore currently operates sports betting apps in New Jersey, Indiana, and Colorado.

“Canadians deserve a modernized and regulated sports betting market, and we commend the federal government for their efforts to legalize single-event wagering,” Score Media Founder and CEO John Levy said in a release. “There is now clear cross-party support and strong momentum to amend Canada’s outdated federal laws and enable the legal sports betting market to flourish.”