Canadian Union Leader Pushing to Expand Sports Betting

Canadian flag in front of view of False Creek and the Burrard street bridge in Vancouver, Canada.

A union leader wants Canada to embrace sports betting after seeing how well the sector is performing in the United States.

Month on month, there has been strong growth in sports betting revenues south of the Canadian border and more states are planning to legalize sports betting in 2019.

The union leader in question is David Cassidy, who is president of the Unifor Local 444 in Windsor, Ontario. He recently met with Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland and part of their discussion was about sports betting.

The key driver of this conversation is that focusing on sports betting will lead to many new jobs.

Essex MP agrees

Another advocate for expanding sports betting in Canada is Tracey Ramsey, the Essex MP. She recently said about this issue: “We need to be a player in this. There’s absolutely no reason not to be.”

She went on to talk about how proper regulation of the sector would drastically decrease the black market for gambling and help people who have gambling addictions because more funds could go toward those areas. She doesn’t know why people are resisting the idea, especially given the number of jobs it would create in the country.

Cassidy is eager for legislation to be brought in very soon. The US is starting to get ahead of Canada in sports betting, which could erode a lot of the country’s market share.

Since the US Supreme Court voted to end the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, numerous states have opened sportsbooks. They include Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi. Many other states have bills in the works and will be looking to open sportsbooks in 2019.

Cassidy is somewhat pro-gambling and a lot of his union members work at Ontario’s Caesars Windsor Casino. He used Michigan as an example of a state on the brink of legalization. He spoke about how Michigan is right across the border from Ontario and that Michigan will get a head start if legalization is approved.

Is this viable?

Cassidy believes that creating another 150 jobs at the Caesars Windsor would need just a change in a single paragraph in the country’s criminal code would allow sports betting.

At the moment, each province in Canada looks after its own gambling offerings. Most of them have legal sports betting, but it is very restricted. For example, wagers on single games are not allowed; all bets have to be parlays.

The odds also are not competitive at all. Therefore a lot of Canadians bet with illegal offshore operators. Using these platforms is not punished in the country. Significant sums of money that could go into the provincial and federal coffers are going offshore instead.

The last time there was a push for proper sports betting legalization was in 2016. MP Brian Masse put forth a proposal, but it lost, 156 votes to 133. Masse estimated that the black market for gambling in the country was bringing in about $7.6bn (£5.9bn) each year. He maintains that the country is missing out on a massive amount of money.

In October, Cassidy communicated his ideas on the issue with Prime Minister Trudeau. Speaking about this, he says: “We’re going to be doing lobbying efforts. It’s going to be front and center because we have a lot of members that are in the hospitality sector that [the ban] negatively affects.”

The potential for sports betting

There is no doubt that Canadians are very passionate about their sports. Hockey, in particular, is a fan favorite. The National Hockey League (NHL) has been embracing sports betting since the federal ban was lifted.

The league’s new official gaming partner, MGM Resorts International, was announced in October. MGM Resorts International will have access to exclusive league data while helping with integrity monitoring systems in return. There are seven NHL teams in Canada.

Numerous NHL teams are getting on board with sports betting partners. The New Jersey Devils, for example, have three different gaming partners: FanDuel, William Hill and DraftKings. Canadian NHL teams will likely support a push to change laws in their home provinces.

Canada is traditionally a progressive country, as shown by its recent legalization of recreational marijuana use. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see full sports betting legalization at some stage in 2019.

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