Canada Edges Ever Closer to Single-Event Sports Betting as Bill Heads to Senate

  • Bill C-218 will go to the Senate next after receiving approval from the House on Thursday
  • A House committee recently amended the legislation to remove a horse racing measure
  • Various operators have expressed interest in the market, including BCLC and theScore
  • PwC has predicted single-event betting will grow the market ten-fold in its first two years
The Senate building in Ottawa, Canada
Senators in Canada will soon have their say on a bill to legalize single-event sports wagering after its approval in the House of Commons Thursday. []

A third and final vote

Canada’s House of Commons has given its final approval to a bill seeking to introduce legal single-event sports betting in the country.

On Thursday, Bill C-218 received all-party support on its third reading in the House in Ottawa, bringing Canada within reach of a legal market. The bill will now head to the Senate which is due to sit again from May 4.

The House announced the passing of the legislation on its official Twitter page later that day:

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh re-introduced Bill C-218 in November with the aim of repealing paragraph 207(4)(b) of Canada’s Criminal Code. If made law, it will allow provincial governments to dictate the regulation of single-event sports betting in their own jursdictions.

a common-sense change to end an outdated restriction.”

In a statement released after the bill’s passage, Waugh described the legislation as “a common-sense change to end an outdated restriction.” He also expressed hope for the bill’s continued progress, affirming his confidence in Senate support.

Freshly amended legislation

This isn’t the first time House of Commons members have voted on Waugh’s betting bill. The legislation also passed easily through the House after its second reading in February. There is one key difference, however, between this version of the bill and the legislation which will head to the Senate.

After completing a review of C-218 last month, the House of Commons Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights voted to remove a horse racing inclusion. In its previous form, the bill would have allowed sportsbooks to offer single-event betting on horse racing. It also shifted regulatory control from the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency to provincial governments.

The House committee’s amendment prevents that regulatory overhaul. Explaining the move, MP Vance Badeway said removing the horse racing measure will “protect this revenue stream for the benefit of approximately 50,000 jobs across Canada.”

Currently, horse races are the only single sporting events Canadian residents can bet on legally. Other wagers must include at least two events, known as parlay wagering. Gamblers have a much lower chance of winning these kinds of bets.

Operators eye the market

A number of betting companies have expressed interest in a single event-sports wagering market in Canada, particularly the British Columbia Lottery Corporation and theScore. As such, both companies have firmly backed Waugh’s legislative efforts since the first hearing of C-218 in November.

It is no secret why the companies are so eager for Canada to introduce legislation. theScore has estimated that an online market could generate between $3.8bn and $5.4bn in annual gross gaming revenue.

we look forward to the Senate swiftly carrying the ball over the goal line”

The operator released a statement in response to the passage of C-218 on Thursday. John Levy, group CEO, described the House’s approval as “a major step forward” and thanked Waugh for his efforts in securing it. “Now that Bill C-218 has been passed by the House, we look forward to the Senate swiftly carrying the ball over the goal line,” the executive commented.

PwC reveals sports betting potential

As Waugh’s legislation progressed this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conducted an economic analysis of the market to provide some insight into its potential.

The first section of the 56-page document, completed in February, takes a look at the current layout of Canada’s sports betting market. It estimates that 39% of Canada’s wagers currently take place at land-based retailers, with an additional 3% taken by licensed online sportsbooks. In contrast, online black market wagering accounts for 57% of the nation’s sports bets.

Canada’s betting market will grow 10 times its current size within the first two years of legalization

If the country were to legalize single-event betting, PwC predicts its GDP will increase by $425m, with an additional 2,500 jobs for Canadians. The report also predicts Canada’s betting market will grow ten times its current size within the first two years of legalization, generating between CA$1.5bn (US$1.2bn) and CA$2.4bn (US$1.9bn) annually.

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