Single-Game Sports Betting Soon to be Legal in Canada After Historic Vote

Posted on: June 22, 2021, 05:24h. 

Last updated on: June 22, 2021, 05:45h.

By a 57-20 margin, Canadian Senators on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to allow single-game sports betting in the country. The vote, during the third and final reading of C-218, was the last major step before the bill officially becomes law.

Canadian Sports Betting
Senators who support bill C-218 stand on the chamber floor in Ottawa to be counted for a vote to legalize single-game sports betting in the country. The measure passed by a 57-20 margin. (Image: Senate of Canada)

As the votes were being tallied, supporters in Ottawa, including bill sponsor MP Kevin Waugh (Conservative-Saskatoon-Grasswood) and key stakeholders across the country celebrated the landmark achievement.

While one Canadian indigenous tribe has offered a single-game sports betting application, federal law has limited sports betting to parlays, meaning bettors must correctly pick two or more outcomes to win.

Paul Burns, president of the Canadian Gaming Association, said Tuesday’s vote was the culmination of a process that started more than a decade ago. Support came from major sporting leagues and organizations, provincial and municipal governments, tribal and commercial gaming groups, and business associations.

“The need for regulation, oversight, player protection, and the creation of economic benefits for Canada was understood by everyone involved in the legislative process, which is why the Bill was successfully passed,” Burns said.

Passage seemed likely after supporters defeated two amendments earlier in debate. Either amendment would have kept the bill from passing before Canadian lawmakers adjourned for summer break later this week. That included a motion to formally include First Nations groups. Supporters of the bill noted that it had support from indigenous tribes, and that provinces could license those organizations.

The final step before the bill becomes law is the Royal Assent. Stav Nitka, communications officer for the Canadian Senate, told Tuesday morning that that step could happen by the end of the day or Wednesday.

Canadian Media Company Looks to Score

Once the bill becomes law, it will be up to the provinces to act on how they will license sports betting operators.

John Levy, chairman and CEO of Score Media and Gaming, said the expectation is Ontario – the country’s most populous province – will take up the measure later this year. The company, which offers mobile sports betting in four US states, operates a sports news app that reaches about 3.8 million Canadians.

More than a third of those readers are based in Ontario, where the company is based.

We are eager to bring our award-winning mobile sportsbook, theScore Bet, to fans on our home turf,” Levy said in a statement. “We have been actively preparing for the expansion of online sports betting and iGaming in our home province of Ontario.”

TheScore has estimated online gaming could generate revenues of up to US$5.4 billion annually. Ontario, with more than 14.5 million people, would be a larger market than such states as Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey.

In British Columbia, the first apps could launch even sooner. The British Columbia Lottery Corp. (BCLC) operates online sports betting in the western province through its Sports Action and PlayNow Sports apps.

“PlayNow will offer single betting, as well as bets on fighting and racing, on all markets once Bill C-218 is granted royal assent and is officially entered into law,” the corporation tweeted in response to multiple inquiries Tuesday.

US Sportsbooks Eye Opportunities in Canada

Canadian companies won’t be the only ones with their eyes on the soon-to-open new markets. Sportsbooks based in the US and elsewhere will look to stake a claim as well.

BetMGM said in a statement it applauded the Senate’s vote.

“With this change in federal law, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with provincial governments, policymakers, and regulators in crafting policy that benefits taxpayers and provinces, while safeguarding the integrity of games,” the company said in a statement. “BetMGM also applauds ongoing efforts in the province of Ontario to establish a robust, competitive, and regulated online gaming market, and looks forward to participating in the Ontario licensing process.”

The MGM Resorts International/Entain plc product will almost certainly be joined by FanDuel and DraftKings in the pursuit of licenses. PointsBet, the Australian-based sportsbook with a large American presence, earlier this month announced the hiring of Nic Sulsky, a Canadian-native gaming executive who will spearhead the company’s efforts in the provinces.

PointsBet plans a significant investment in Canada, backed by a workforce based there.

“I’m looking forward to launching a truly Canadian platform that will not only provide good jobs in an exciting industry, but also offer Canadian fans an entertaining and engaging experience like no other,” Sulsky said.