Adam Silver, NBA, Canada sports betting, C-290

NBA chief Adam Silver is known to be open to the idea of legalizing sports betting. (Image:

The NBA has said it will no longer oppose a bill that proposes to revolutionize the Canadian sports betting landscape by allowing Canadians to bet on single sports games.

The league has become the first to officially reverse its stance on Bill C-290, the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) said this week.

The Criminal Code in Canada has long prohibited its citizens from betting on single games; instead, they content themselves with putting their money, at longer odds, on parlay bets via the provincial lottery operators.

These, of course, involve wagering on the outcomes of two or more games.

The reasoning is that betting on single games might encourage gambling addiction and match-fixing.

Proponents of the bill believe that reforms would channel billions in funds into the hands of the provincial lottery corporations, rather than the huge unlicensed offshore market, which currently caters for Canada’s kinkier betting requirements.

Multi-billion-dollar Gray Market

Currently, single-event sports betting handle is estimated to be over $10 billion per year. According to UK betting data firm Sportradar, over 220 companies take bets on National Hockey League games, and around 120 cover Canadian Football League games.

Even the Canadian Soccer League, which can hardly be said to have a “global reach,” is covered by at least 130 foreign bookmakers.

The NBA initially stated its opposition when the bill was introduced in 2012, claiming that C-290 threatened to “injure” the relationship the league enjoyed with its fans.

Future fans would “never be able to enjoy the game,” it fretted, because, rather than support a favorite team, they would instead be drawn to “the competing interest of the betting line and the money that can be made from it.”

The statement becomes all the more hyperbolic when you consider that Canada has only one NBA team, which suggests the choice of loyalties for the average Canadian may be rather cut and dried.

However, according to the CGA, which is desperately trying to push the bill before Parliament breaks for the summer next week, the NBA has changed its tune.

NBA Statement

“Consistent with the NBA’s current position regarding legalized sports betting in the United States, the NBA is no longer opposed to legalized sports betting in Canada so long as there is an appropriate legislative framework that protects the integrity of the game under strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards,” said the NBA, as quoted by the CGA in a hearing of the Senate of Canada’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee this week. 

The statement echoes the recent shift in position of NBA head Adam Silver, who, in an op-ed for the New York Times toward the end of last year, suggested the laws on sports betting in the US should be changed.

“Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards,” he said.

All other major North American sports leagues, however, remain intransigent on the subject, and meanwhile, C-290, which has been languishing in the Senate for the best part of three years, remains a long shot. Currently, though, long shots are all that Canadians are allowed to bet on.