Canadian Single-Event Sports Betting One Step Closer as Government Considers Legislation

  • The new legislation would repeal paragraph 207 (4)(b) of the Canadian Criminal Code 
  • Single-event sports wagering would be decriminalized, except for wagering on horse racing
  • Legalization could combat Canada’s illegal black market, worth approximately $14bn per year
  • The bill must still pass through both of Canada’s houses of Parliament before it is made law
Canadian flag with the Parliament building in the background
The Canadian government is considering legislation which would repeal part of the country’s Criminal Code and legalize single-event sports betting. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A step towards a legal market

Canada is one step closer to a legal single-event sports betting market as its federal government considers new legislation.

On Thursday, Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti introduced new legislation to the House of Commons with the aim of decriminalizing single-event sports betting. A statement on the Canadian Government’s website detailed the proposed changes to Canada’s Criminal Code. If passed, the bill would legalize betting on all individual sporting events except horse racing.

The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) announced the bill’s imminent consideration a day earlier on its Twitter page:

Commenting on the news, the CGA described the benefits of such a change to Canadian law, including safeguards for sports bettors and an economic boost for operators, communities, and local governments. “We can’t emphasize enough how this small change to the Criminal Code will help communities recover from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 shutdown,” a CGA statement read.

Further details of the legislation

Current sports betting law in Canada prohibits any betting on individual sporting events. Instead, customers are limited to parlays in which they must place bets on a minimum of three games within a single wager. The likelihood of winning such bets is much lower than wagers on single games.

give provinces and territories control over their own single-event sports betting regulation

Lametti’s proposed legislation would give provinces and territories control over their own single-event sports betting regulations. In regions which choose to offer single-event sports betting, bettors would be able to wager either online or at brick-and-mortar locations. Wagering on horse racing would continue to be restricted to parlay bets, supervised by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency.

The Canadian Government has also confirmed it will conduct a consultation with local governments and indigenous communities on gambling regulation. Legislators will also speak with local governments and those within the horse racing industry regarding the impact of decriminalization of single-event sports betting.

The journey towards regulation

The CGA estimates that every year, Canadian bettors spend around $10bn on single-event sports betting on the domestic illegal black market. In addition, bettors spend approximately $4bn at offshore internet sites that are not provincially regulated. Canadians wager only $500m through legal provincial sports lottery products offered in Canada. The CGA argues that a large part of the black market draw is the possibility of betting on single events.

To combat the prevalence of Canada’s illegal betting market, conservative Member of Parliament Kevin Waugh introduced the idea of a legalized single-event sports betting market to the House of Commons in February. Bill C-218 aimed to repeal paragraph 207 (4)(b) of the Canadian Criminal Code which outlawed single-event sports betting. Earlier this month, Waugh introduced the bill again, this time resulting in an hour of debate.

the federal government has recognized the urgent need to amend the Criminal Code”

By introducing the legislation as a government bill, Lametti has now given it a greater chance of becoming law. The legislation must pass through both of the country’s houses of Parliament first, but the CGA said Lametti’s proposal shows “the federal government has recognized the urgent need to amend the Criminal Code.”