Canada could launch sports betting by Labor Day

During a Canadian Senate hearing it was suggested that sports betting in Canada could go live by Labor Day if legislation is approved.

Last week, the bill passed its second reading in the Senate and was sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce for further discussion.

Sports betting on the horizon in Canada

On Wednesday, a Canadian Senate hearing was held to discuss Bill C-218, which is also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.

Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns and the Canadian Football League (CFL) Commissioner Randy Ambrosie gave testimony at the Standing Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce. 

The hearing was held to discuss the potential risks and benefits that come with sports betting in Canada.

During the hearing, Burns suggested that sports betting could launch by Labor Day, when Senator Elizabeth Marshall asked for a firm sports betting launch date.

Burns said it would be a matter of months or weeks for the provincial lotteries in Canada to launch a form of single event betting.

Burns said: “I expect by fall, you’ll see some very robust offerings.” 

Marshall later pressed Burns for a specific date to which he responded “by Labor Day.”

Potential amendments could slow the process

During the hearing, a handful of Senators raised questions about responsible gambling and match-fixing.

Burns said that although gambling options have increased in recent years, problem gambling levels have decreased thanks to “world-class responsible gaming programs.”

Burns said: “The reality is that just because there is new product doesn’t mean there’s new problem gamblers.”

Among those who raised questions about the bill was former Ottawa police chief Vernon White, who proposed an amendment to the bill, whereby the fixing of a sporting event will be unlawful.

White is an independent who sits with the Canadian Senators Group. Although White said he is not against single-event betting, he believes an amendment to the bill is needed to prohibit match-fixing.

Match-fixing is when a team or athlete participates in an event with the intention of reaching a predetermined outcome by winning, losing or affecting statistics.

In terms of match-fixing, Burns said he believes there are provisions that already prohibit it.

The CFL commissioner also said that the league has “protections built into our existing ecosystem.”

If White’s amendment is approved, Bill C-28 would be sent back to the House of Commons for another vote, meaning that it may not receive final approval before 23 June 2021, which is when the House and Senate are set to finish up for the Summer.

What happens next?

The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce will put together a report prior to a potential third reading in the Canadian Senate.

However, lawmakers will have to act quickly if they want to get sports betting off the ground this year as Canada’s Parliamentary session will end at the end of June.

If the Senate approves the bill, it would then need to go back to the House of Commons for re-approval before being sent to the Governor General’s office for final approval.