True Sports Betting Coming to Canada as Senate Passes Single-Event Betting Bill

  • Senate vote was 57 for, 20 against, five abstentions, with C-218 expected to become law in days
  • Currently, only parlay betting is permitted, while C-218 allows for traditional, single-event wagers
  • The Canadian betting market is expected to be extremely competitive
  • The Canadian Gaming Association called C-218 “an important competitive tool” for the industry
Canadian sports fans celebrating
The Senate of Canada passed C-218 Tuesday, putting single-event sports betting on the brink of becoming legal in the country. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Bill passed by large margin

Single-event sports betting will soon become a reality in Canada as the country’s Senate passed C-218 without amendment. Debate on the bill began in the Senate of Canada last Thursday and a vote was supposed to happen Monday, but it was deferred until today. The final tally was 57 for and 20 against with five abstentions.

House of Commons member Kevin Waugh originally sponsored C-218 early last year. It was introduced as official legislation in November 2020 and the House of Commons passed it in April. The Senate considered two amendments, both of which failed to pass: one to make match-fixing a crime (opponents of the amendment said this is covered by fraud law) and one to explicitly include First Nations in sports betting (opponents said this is outside the scope of the bill).

From here, C-218 goes to the Governor General for royal assent to become law, which should happen within the next few days.

Only parlay betting currently allowed

Sports betting does already exist in Canada, but it is quite restrictive and does not allow most people to wager in the way they would like. Those who want to put money on a game must do so in a parlay of at least three events. Thus, if one leg of the parlay loses, the entire bet loses. Single-event bets – like just putting down a lone wager on the Montreal Canadiens to beat the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup semis tonight – are not legal.

Canadians wager around CA$500m (US$406m) on legal parlay bets each year, but that pales in comparison to the CA$14.5bn (US$11.8bn) they bet annually overall, meaning they are going elsewhere for their betting action.

will ultimately be controlled and regulated by individual provinces

As in the United States, while single-event sports betting will be legal at the federal level, it will ultimately be controlled and regulated by individual provinces. Canada is expected to be an extremely competitive market, with Ontario – home of Toronto – the most coveted province.

Some operators have already begun positioning themselves to grab as much market share as they can. In February, DraftKings and the NFL extended their fantasy sports partnership to Canada. BetMGM signed Wayne Gretzky as a brand ambassador, clearly gunning for Canada’s hockey bettors. And theScore, based in Toronto, recently went public, in part to help fund Canadian expansion.

“Major milestone and achievement”

As one might expect, industry reaction to C-218’s passage has been very positive. As soon as the Senate voted, the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) put out a celebratory statement. Paul Burns, president and CEO of the CGA, called it a “major milestone and achievement for the Canadian gaming industry.”

need for regulation, oversight, player protection, and the creation of economic benefits for Canada”

He added: “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.”

Carrie Kormos, chair of the CGA said that C-218 provides “an important competitive tool for an industry that has been severely impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns.”

Senator David Wells, the champion of the bill in the Senate, tweeted: “I’m honoured to have worked to make single-event sports betting legal in Canada.”

In speaking to the Senate to introduce the bill’s third reading last Thursday, Senator Wells emphasized the importance of bringing overseas betting dollars back to Canada and offering bettors protection they don’t get from black-market sites. He also highlighted the jobs that expanded sports betting would create, the benefits the tax dollars could have for the country, and the financial boost it could bring First Nations communities.