Ontario finance minister Vic Fedeli has petitioned the Canadian federal government to shake up the country’s abstruse sports betting laws, which he says are costing his province alone $110 million per year in revenue, lost to the black market.
In a letter seen by The Toronto Sun, dated March 8, Fedeli calls on Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to initiate “an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada that would legalize single event sports wagering in Canada.”
His letter includes words of support from major sports leagues, NHL, MLS, NBA and CFL (Canadian Football League), which have opposed past efforts to change the law in Canada but have changed their tune since the liberalization of the market south of the border.
Parlay Betting in Canada
Currently, Canadians are only allowed to make parlay wagers when playing via their provincial operators, which means their odds of winning anything are frustratingly long.
A legislative push to legalize single-game sports betting bombed in 2016 but came close three years previously when a bill was passed in the House but stalled in the Senate, before being tabled by a general election.
But Fedeli hopes the changing landscape in the US could help federal lawmakers look at the issue with fresh eyes, and that the changed stance of the leagues will help.
“The NHL believes that a level playing surface for sports betting is in the best interest of the NHL’s sports betting landscape,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wrote in the letter.
“Canada must move forward to ensure Canadian industries remain competitive with their US counterparts,” added CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
Black Market Billions
As more states gradually opt to regulate sports betting in the US, Fedeli envisages increased competition for the Canada’s gaming market, as citizens hop across the border to spend their hard earned dough.
New York, which shares a border with Ontario, is expected to launch sports betting later this year, which will allow the state’s tribal operators — some of whom have casinos a stone’s throw from the Canadian border — to follow suit.
The reality is, though, Canadians are far more likely simply to log on to an unlicensed, offshore gambling site than become sports betting tourists.
“Given the absence of legal alternatives, Canadian consumers are increasingly turning to illegal, off-shore sportsbooks, or to US-based casinos, which offer single event sports wagering,” writes Fedeli.
The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that Canadians wager $450 million a year on legal parlay bets, while a staggering $10 billion goes to the offshore markets.