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Single-Event Sports Betting in Canada Will Have to Wait Longer (Again)

The latest attempts to bring single-event sports betting to Canada have been met with further frustration after the ruling Liberal Party opted to prorogue parliament until September 23rd. 

Bill C-221 is the country’s third go at trying to implement a regulatory framework for sports wagering of the above kind. 

The bill had received support from the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), as well as various professional sports leagues in North America. 

Sports betting in Canada is legal across most of the country, but only certain forms are currently allowed. 

The wait must continue

Bill C-221 was submitted to the Commons last February, with two prior attempts made to regulate single-event sports betting in Canada since 2016. The bill was introduced by Conservative MP Paul Waugh. 

The legislation, also known as the Safe & Regulated Sports Act, was awaiting its second reading after passing the first. But then came COVID-19 to, like it has pretty much everywhere else in the world, disrupt those plans. 

As a result of the prorogued parliament, a new agenda will be put forward. Therefore, the process to introduce Bill C-221 will need to start from home base again. 

Brian Masse, who is a known supporter of sports betting in Canada and Representative for Windsor West Ontario, expressed his disappointment at the decision to prorogue parliament. He said: 

“We were promised in this past election that sports betting… would be an easy one to get done and here we are a year later, more problems, more delays.” 

This year was supposed to be different 

Along with the CGA expressing their support for single-event sports betting in Canada, various leagues with teams in the country also did. These were the National Hockey Association (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Soccer (MLS), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the Canadian Football League (CFL). 

In a joint-statement earlier this year, the organizations – as well as the CGA – said the following. 

“Sports betting gives fans another exciting way to engage with the sports they love. Because a legal and regulated sports betting market in Canada would be beneficial to sports and their fans, we urge prompt action to make this a reality. 

“Sports betting already happens illegally in Canada; creating a legal framework would shift consumers from illicit, unregulated markets to a legal and safe marketplace. Regulating single-game betting would allow for strong consumer protections as well as safeguards to further protect the integrity of sports.”

Political opponents critical of the Liberal Party’s decision to prorogue parliament 

Many opponents of the Liberal Party have not been too friendly about their decision to delay governmental proceedings. 

The party has been the subject of allegations involving the WE Charity and misuse related to its student grants program. Finance Minister Bill Morneau resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet earlier this month, while the Prime Minister has also faced scrutiny. 

Trudeau has said that the Liberal Party is due to hold a vote of confidence related to his leadership next month. Ahead of next year’s Canadian General Election, the 48-year-old has also said that he feels the party needs a change of direction. 

Sports betting in Canada 

Sports betting in Canada is legal, but only to a certain extent. Only wagers involving three games or more are currently regulated by Canadian law, making it impossible for players to legally bet on one or two games. 

Wagering with offshore sports betting operators does happen and according to Waugh, the market for this is sizable. When he introduced Bill C-221, he estimated that millions of Canadian Dollars were being spent by players on unregulated websites. 

“Let me be clear that single-event sport wagering already exists in this country, and if members do not think so, they are behind the curtains. 

“The Canadian single-event sport wagering industry is worth over $14 billion, but most of it, 95% of it, exists underground on the black market or through offshore websites.”

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