Canada’s single-event sports betting bill receives Royal Assent

A bill that would legalise single-event sports betting in Canada has received Royal Assent and will now pass into law once the House of Commons has been advised to do so.

This comes after the bill passed its third reading in the country’s Senate with a vote of 57-20 and five abstentions, last week

Bill receives Royal Assent

Bill C-128, also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, seeks to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of Canada’s Criminal Code to permit single-event sports betting.

On Wednesday, the bill received Royal Assent and will soon come into effect, formally legalising betting on a single sports event for the first time in Canada.

Now that the bill is an official act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must set an effective date for the Canada sports betting amendment to come into effect.

Last week, the bill passed a third reading in the Senate with a vote of 57-20. Prior to this, the bill made it through the House of Commons after a third reading in April.

In a statement, David Lametti, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada said: “I am pleased to welcome the Royal Assent of Private Member’s Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), which will bring the common practice of single event sport betting into a legal, regulated and safe environment, while strengthening our economy and supporting well-paying jobs for Canadians.

“The revenues generated from this type of gambling could be used by provinces and territories to fund programs and services in areas such as health care and education, as they currently do with other lottery revenues. The amendments clearly respond to calls from labour leaders, particularly in communities along the Canada-U.S. border, following similar changes made in a number of border states.”

The bill

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, sports wagering is only legal when a wager is placed on three or more games at a time, meaning that betting on single events is illegal.

Bill C-218 will now repeal this section of the Criminal Code to permit legal wagering on individual sporting events. 

Several proposed amendments to the measure failed to make the cut during the legislative process. One proposed amendment would have made match-fixing a crime, while another addressed concerns about First Nations Indigenous groups being left out of sports betting.

In his statement, Lametti explained that the government will also begin a dialogue with those First Nations Indigenous groups.

Lametti said: “The Government of Canada is currently engaging with provinces and territories and with Indigenous nations, communities and organizations that have expressed an interest in discussing how gambling is regulated in Canada to better understand and respond to calls for greater opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to participate in the conduct and regulation of gaming in Canada.”

When will sports betting go live?

A quick launch is expected for sports betting in Canada as soon as Trudeau sets a date.

During a hearing with the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns suggested that sports betting could launch by Labor Day.

Other proposed launch dates have been suggested in other committee meetings with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s Stewart Groumoutis saying “almost immediately.” 

Some provincial lottery sites could launch the activity by simply adding it to their existing offerings as soon as a date is set. However, some provinces, like Ontario, could take longer to launch.

Ontario, which is the fifth-largest region in the US or Canada, hopes to launch a “competitive and regulated market” by the end of the year.

David Phillips, COO at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has said sports betting in the region could be live “by the end of 2021.”

Several operators are hoping to establish a presence in the market including the Canada-based sports media company turned sportsbook operator theScore.

DraftKings is also eyeing entry into Canada after extending its partnership with the NFL to include Canada. BetMGM is also expected to enter the market after reaching an agreement with NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and hockey publication The Hockey News.