Canada’s single-event betting bill receives third reading in Senate

A bill that would authorise single-event sports betting in Canada is one step closer to a final vote after receiving a third reading in the country’s Senate.

Earlier this month it was revealed that single-event sports betting in Canada could go live by Labour Day.

Prior to this, the bill passed a second reading in the Senate before being sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce for further discussion.

Bill receives a third reading

The legislation, Bill C-218 which is also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act , was introduced in early 2020.  The measure was reintroduced in November 2020 by Canada’s Minister of Justice David Lametti as “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (single event sport betting).”

A third reading of the bill commenced on Thursday last week but the debate ran over the allotted time. The bill will be revisited today, but the Senate must conduct more government business ahead of it. 

However, lawmakers will have to act fast as Canada’s parliamentary session is set to end this week.

The third reading

Senator David Wells, who is also sponsoring the bill, kicked off the reading on Thursday.

Well said: “$14 billion is being spent by Canadians on single-event sports betting.These bets are being placed every day on offshore gambling sites. These black and gray market activities are happening outside of Canada’s legal framework and therefore are not subject to any regulations and taxes are not being collected on revenues.

“While we cannot dictate the regulatory practices of Canada’s provincial governments, what we can do is make this modification to one line of the Criminal Code, thereby empowering them to safely bring single-event sports betting within Canada – the regulations that would be enacted and bolstered around this activity are tangible and urgently needed.”

During the reading, concerns were raised about the potential of match-fixing within sporting events.

Senator Peter Harder said: “While Canada is now regarded as a leader in the global anti-doping movement, we must now take a more proactive stance regarding match manipulation.

“These sorts of actions lead to a feeling of betrayal among sports supporters. If single-game betting is allowed without the issue of match manipulation being addressed, it also risks dissuading individuals who want to lay bets in the first place. Why bother if you can’t trust that the dice aren’t loaded?”

Senator Vernon White also voiced concerns over the possibility of match fixing in sports, however, supporters of the bill have said that this is covered in the Criminal Code under fraud.

White also proposed an amendment to make match-fixing a crime but this failed.

Issues around the involvement of gambling tribes in sports betting also arose during the discussion.

First Nations tribes that are involved in the gambling space are concerned how the expansion of betting could negatively affect their business. Some tribal groups in the country are operating outside of the Criminal Code and provincial agreements.

Senator Mary Jane MacCallum suggested an amendment to recognise indigenous gambling operations. This will likely be voted on during today’s discussions.

However, supporters of the bill said that the regulatory framework will remain unchanged and argue that the issue is beyond the scope of the bill and will be up to provinces to regulate.

What happens now?

Discussion over the bill will resume in the country’s parliament today. Monday was an optional sitting day for the legislature as the Parliamentary session draws to a close later this week.

If the bill passes with no amendments on the final vote, it will then head to the Governor General for royal assent.

If amendments are made, the bill will need to return to the House of Commons and pass before the session closes.