Sports gambling in Canada has been an interesting situation. In 2016 a bill was introduced that had the sole goal of bringing legalized sports gambling to single sporting events. We’re not talking about your “unofficial” CFL office pool here, either. This bill would have changed the entire sports gambling landscape in the Great White North. Canada is already known for a less-than-strict set of guidelines when it comes to most forms of gambling. Online gambling, in particular. Canadians have free and easy access to all kinds of online sources with many of them being based off-shore. However, four years have passed since the bill was first introduced and there has been little movement on the single sporting event gambling bill (our name for it). In this article, we will take a closer look at this situation and what it means to gamblers living in Canada.
The bill is formally known as Bill C-218. Just when lawmakers were getting around to dusting it off and revisiting it, pandemonia struck in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. All activities at Canada’s Parliament Hill came to a screeching halt as attention was focused squarely on dealing with the coronavirus. Rightfully so, the federal government went into action and started providing various forms of support for individuals and families who were being financially impacted by the closures and restrictions being put in place. Small businesses started closing, the economy started to collapse and the last thing on anyone’s mind was whether or not to start up that trusty office pool. Eventually, professional sporting events got canceled and the country started to freeze.
The Canadian Gaming Association Backed The Act
What could be considered bad timing was where the Safe & Regulated Sports Act was in the process. It was basically on hold. Government processes run slowly but typically smoothly. There is a well-documented procedure that any bill must follow to be passed. Bill C-218 had gone through first reading. The next steps would have been second and third readings and then adoption. COVID-19 interrupted the process shortly after the first reading. Support was in place this year that didn’t exist in previous years. The Canadian Gaming Association (GCA) was now backing the bill. The reasoning being that legalizing sportsbooks would create a responsible gaming atmosphere. It would be a safe place for participants and it would generate revenues for the federal government.
It Sounds Too Simple
When you think about it, what legalized gaming can do for a jurisdiction, it is quite amazing how simple the equation becomes. By providing a legal outlet for Canadian gamblers to utilize, they keep their money within their own country where it gets used by individual provinces. These provinces would convert revenues from the legalized sportsbooks into various infrastructure projects and programs benefiting their residents. It’s a win-win all the way around and prevents gaming money from going to off-shore online gaming sources as is currently the case. Okay, maybe it won’t stop that, but legalized sportsbooks in Canada will pull business away from the off-shore sportsbooks. A shift would take place soon after the Canadian sites became legal.
Where The CGA Sits On The Matter
According to the CGA CEO, Paul Burns, an amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code is all that is needed to provide provinces with access to legalized single-event sports wagering. With that change, Burns claims that each province will then have to tools they would need to provide a safe and legal betting option to Canadians. It would also permit economic benefits to be created. When you consider what the current Canadian economy is like now in the COVID-19 world we are now living in, possibly pressure will be put on the federal government to speed the adoption of Bill C-218 once they get back to work at Parliament Hill.
Government Hurdles To Get Over First
Although the process sounds quite simple, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unknowingly created a hurdle or two that will hold up the passage of Bill C-218 further. When his government reconvenes, he is expected to hold a vote of confidence on his leadership. The goal is to bring a new direction into play before the upcoming 2021 General Election. There is no indication that Bill C-218 will become part of that new direction. Plus, a change in government following the 2021 General Election could either speed up the process or kill the bill, depending on the stance of the new ruling party on gaming. It could mean that Canadian bettors will be waiting another two years before they will be able to support legal sportsbooks in their own country. Or go back to playing where they are now. Naturally, this means you can still hold your “unofficial” office pool but try to keep it quiet.
What It All Means
With the wheels not turning much these days on the Safe & Regulated Sports Act, it doesn’t seem that legalized single-sports gambling is coming to Canada anytime soon. Blame it on the pandemic or slow movement by the government but one thing is for sure, with the future of sports betting hanging in the balance, Canadian gamblers are not without something to keep them entertained. They can still gamble online at countless options available to them from off-shore sites. This means that Canadian gamblers can still play real money slots, blackjack, poker, and many other betting and gaming activities that they currently enjoy. Until the Canadian government can get a handle on their operations, gaming revenue will continue to flow outside of Canada rather than staying home and getting used to help residents.
Bill C-218 is a critical piece of the puzzle. Combined with tweaks to the Canadian Criminal Code, gambling revenue could be flowing to each province and territory if Canada’s government would pass and adopt the bill. Delays have made this nearly impossible to be completed within the next year or two. However, Canadian gamblers are not without outlets to satisfy their need to play online games. Only those do not produce revenues for the Canadian government.