Single-event betting coming to Canada after bill passes third reading in Senate

Single-event sports betting is on track to launch in Canada after a bill amending the country’s criminal code passed its third reading in the Senate on Tuesday.

This comes after an extended third reading of the bill in the country’s Senate, which started last week, came to a close with a vote yesterday.

Single-event betting bill passes third reading

The single-event betting bill, 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).”

On Tuesday, the bill passed its third reading in the Senate with a vote of 57-20 and five abstentions.

The bill will now be sent to the Governor General for royal assent to become law, which will likely happen in the coming days.

The bill was sponsored by Conservative MP Kevin Waugh who has reacted positively to the passage of the bill.

Speaking in the Senate, Waugh said: “The passage of my Private Member’s Bill to legalize single-event sports betting in the Senate is a victory for Canadian sport, sport fans, and businesses. This bill is a win for Canadian taxpayers, workers, and sports fans. Canada’s Conservatives will continue to put forward common-sense bills that create economic opportunities and help Canadians.”

What’s covered in the bill?

The legislation aims to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of Canada’s Criminal Code which states that sports betting in Canada is only legal when a wager is placed on the outcome of three or more events.

This means that legal betting in Canada can only take place via parlay bets placed with the Lottery.

Under Bill C-218, it would be legal for Canadians to place individual bets on sports.

Senate dismisses proposed amendments

The Senate voted on the bill after brushing aside two proposed amendments last week Thursday.

Senator Rob Black wanted the bill to protect the Canadian horseracing industry. However, bill sponsor Senator David Wells stated the bill does protect the industry as it does not permit fixed-odds wagering on horseracing.

Senator Vernon White also raised the issue of match-fixing and wanted to include an amendment that would make it a crime. The amendment was brushed aside after supporters of the bill said that Canada’s laws around fraud cover the issue.

Concerns were also raised about First Nations Indigenous groups being left out of sports betting. 

However, Wells stated that the bill changes one line of the Criminal Code and made no changes to the regulatory framework. Bill supporters argue that the issue is beyond the scope of the bill and will be up to the provincial governments to oversee.

Industry reacts to Senate passage

Since the bill was first introduced in 2020, it has received support from gambling entities and sports teams alike. Several industry stakeholders have already spoken on the passage of the bill in the Senate.

The Canadian sports media company turned US sportsbook operator, theScore, was among those who supported the bill in 2020.

TheScore’s Founder and CEO John Levy, said: “The Senate’s passing of Bill C-218 earlier today is an historic moment for Canada as it will legalize single event sports betting. 

“The passing of this important legislation allows theScore, along with our fellow stakeholders, to collectively usher in a robust industry that will drive business, technology innovation, employment and economic growth while providing a safe and trusted environment in which Canadians can wager on sports.”

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has also praised the passage of the bill.

Lynda Cavanaugh, BCLC’s Interim President and CEO, said: “This is a huge win for players, and British Columbians overall.

“We’re excited to soon provide our players these new offerings on, which is B.C.’s only legal gambling website and delivers important revenue back to the Province of B.C. to support things like healthcare, education and community programs.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Gaming Association has also released a statement.

Paul Burns, President and CEO of the CGA said: “This is a major milestone and achievement for the Canadian gaming industry.

“The CGA has been working to legalize single-event sports betting for more than 10 years and Bill C-218 benefited from a groundswell of broad stakeholder support from across Canada. 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.”

When will sports betting go live?

Once the bill receives Royal Assent and becomes an official law, it could be a matter of months until sports betting comes to Canada.

Regulatory bodies in Ontario and British Columbia are already in the process of crafting sports betting rules.

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.

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.

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

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