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New Canadian Sports Betting Bill Reaches the House of Commons
Sports betting and online casino often go hand-in-hand in terms of legalisation with many counties either outlawing both or neither.
Well, Canada is one of the countries that makes an exception to that rule but it looks as if that may soon change if a new bill gets passed. C-218 has been introduced to the House of Commons by the Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Grasswood, Kevin Waugh. The bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code that will soften the laws on sports betting.
The proposed legislation would “make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race or fight or on a single sporting event or athletic contest.”
Right now, the Parliamentary Criminal Code allows sports betting only several event outcomes that are combined together into a single wager – a parlay.
The Reason Lies South of the Border
To explain why this bill has come forward now, you’ll have to look south of the border. MP Kevin Waugh has explained that the recent changes to sports betting in the United States are behind this sudden push.
In May 2018, the United States Supreme Court repealed the federal ban. Since then, 20 different states including New York and Michigan have passed sports betting rule changes. This has affected Canada in numerous ways, especially those who live close to the border. Canadians in places like Niagara Falls can just make a quick trip south to legally bet on sports matches on US soil.
Similarly, those living in Windsor, Ontario can just hop across the Detroit River to legally bet on sports matches in Detroit. The changes in Michigan law will also legalise online sports betting in the state.
“Losing customers to Michigan is very difficult. It’s a missed opportunity. We’ve missed the boat. I’m just really concerned.”
It’s a view that is shared by members of the Canadian Gambling Authority.
“We’ve had legal sports wagering for decades,” said CGA Chief Executive Officer Paul Burns.
“In most of the United States, even parlay wasn’t legal.”
For many Canadian lawmakers, it has a lot to do with the money. $7.5 billion is wagered through illegal bookies each year in Canada according to the CGA. That’s a whole lot of money that is not only unregulated and unprotected but also cannot be taxed.
It’s unclear whether this bill will get through the House of Commons but according to some local business experts, it is overdue.
“Our clients would love to be part of a regulated industry here in Canada,” said Chantal Cipriano, a lawyer with Dickinson-Wright. She says that many of her clients would jump at the opportunity to be a part of a regulated industry in Canada but “unfortunately, we don’t have the option for them to even obtain a licence. They have to operate in the way that they are currently.”
For many, there is a feeling that sports betting especially online should fall more in line with the current laws on online casinos in the country. Businesses are ready to go in a more regulated industry but the law just needs to catch up. Perhaps the wave of changes in US state law in the last few years will force the issue. This will only be a good thing for Canadian players, many of whom enjoy sports wagering as much as online casino.
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