Canada Looks Set for Single-Event Sports Betting as Bill Passes Through Commons

  • Bill C-218 passed easily through the Commons on Wednesday and will now reach the Senate
  • A second federal sports betting bill, C-13, will go to the House of Commons on Friday
  • Single-event sports betting gathered widespread support last year, including sports leagues
  • Canada's illegal sportsbooks see handle of CA$10bn (US$7.88bn) annually, according to CGA
Hand giving thumbs up painted with Canada flag
Canadian single-event sports betting could be on the way after the House of Commons passed a bill for its legalization. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A breakthrough for sports bettors

Canada has moved one step closer to a legal single-event sports betting market after the nation’s parliament approved a private members bill. The House of Commons in Ottawa gave bill C-218 its go-ahead upon its second reading this Wednesday.

Also known as The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, bill C-218 repeals a section of Canada’s criminal code which makes wagering on a single sporting event illegal. The bill passed easily through the Commons with the support of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and will now go to the Senate.

a significant step forward in the process to amend an outdated law”

John Levy, founder and CEO of Canadian media and gaming company theScore, expressed his excitement over the news. He described the passing of C-218 as “a significant step forward in the process to amend an outdated law.”

A second near-identical sports betting bill titled C-13 will go to the House of Commons for debate on Friday. Introduced by the federal government, this legislation would also legalize single-event wagering at a national level.

The bill’s journey so far

In Canada, federal rules prohibit betting on single sporting events. Instead, Canadian law only permits parlay sports wagers with at least three events within one bet. The likelihood of winning such bets is much lower than wagers on single selections.

Canadian MPs Kevin Waugh and Brian Masse sought to change this law last year despite the failure of two previous sports betting bills. They first introduced bill C-218 in February 2020. Both politicians argued that single-event wagering was necessary to combat illegal gambling and to compete with the fast-growing US market.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti proposed his own single-event sports betting bill just weeks after Waugh and Masse introduced theirs. Bill C-13 is near identical to C-218, only it excludes single-event horse wagering. Waugh has since said it doesn’t matter to him which of the bills makes it into law.

Support for single-event sports betting gained momentum throughout last year. In June, several major professional sports leagues penned a statement to top government officials in Canada to push for legislation. This included representatives from the NBA, NHL, and MLB, in addition to Canadian leagues. Meanwhile, C-218 gained near-unanimous support from provincial governments and business organizations.

Canada’s market potential

According to the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), Canadian bettors wager CA$10bn (US$7.88bn) per year through black-market sportsbooks in the country. In addition, the association estimated that Canadian’s bet more than CAD$4bn (US$3.15bn) through offshore online sports wagering websites annually. Currently, Canadians only bet CA$500m (US$393.9m) through legal sportsbooks in Canada per year.

create economic stimulus, provide jobs for Canadian citizens, and generate considerable tax flow

Paul Burns, president and CEO of the CGA, said the introduction of legal single-event sports wagering would allow provincial governments to better protect betting customers. He also said it would create economic stimulus, provide jobs for Canadian citizens, and generate considerable tax flow.

Based on historical data from US and other global markets, theScore has predicted that a fully legal online gambling market in Canada could generate between US$3.8bn and US$5.4bn annually in gross gaming revenue.