Sports betting in Canada is mandated by the Criminal Code, paragraph 207 (4)(b), which currently restricts wagering to parlays only. A bill moving through parliament that seeks to authorize single event wagers gained new hope last week when the National Basketball Association (NBA) withdrew its opposition to the legislation, but it wasn’t enough to get the bill passed before the summer break.
Last week, the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) lobbied hard for the passage of C-290, knowing that Parliament’s last day in session was swift approaching. During a debate over the sports betting reform, the CGA quoted a statement from the NBA that many hoped would help sway the House.
“Consistent with the NBA’s current position regarding legalized sports betting in the United States, the NBA is no longer opposed to legalized sports betting in Canada so long as there is an appropriate legislative framework that protects the integrity of the game under strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”
Sports Betting Reform 3 Years in the Making
C-290 was first introduced in 2012, but has failed to gain enough traction to reach the Senate until last year. Unfortunately, despite passing its third reading with support from all parties, the Senate chose not to act on it before the summer break.
When the sports betting reform bill was first introduced, the NBA staunchly opposed the measure, saying it threatened to “injure” the relationship between the league and its fans.
The fear was that expanded sports betting would discourage fans from supporting their favorite teams in favor of supporting the best betting lines. However, the league altered its opinion in the United States in November of last year when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times favoring new laws to regulate professional sports betting.
Similar to the NBA’s statement regarding Canada’s sports betting reform, Silver wrote, “[US] Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.” He added that, “Sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight.”
On the other side of the coin, the majority of North American sporting leagues continue to oppose any legislation that would facilitate legal single-event sports betting in Canada or the US.
“Underground” Sports Betting valued at $10 Billion
According to C290 Now, a website dedicated to the passage of the single-event sports betting reform, Canadian wagers on sports are “estimated to be in excess of $10 billion per year”. In contrast, parlay bets (wagers on 2+ events) wagered through “provincial sports lottery products” total only $450 million; a far cry short of the amount actually being bet.
That means the majority of Canadians are turning to illegal bookies and/or offshore online betting sources to place their wagers.
“Passing Bill C290 will mean Canadians will have the opportunity to make fair wagers in safe, secure, regulated environments,” says C290now. “It will also mean hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue will stay in the Canadian economy, supporting jobs and communities.”
The House of Commons will reconvene in the fall, with the first sitting scheduled for September 21, 2015.
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