One-match sports betting set to become legal after the bill is passed by the Senate

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Betting on single matches of football, hockey and other sports is on the verge of becoming legal in Canada, with provinces ready to pounce on the next federal law.

The Senate approved Bill C-218, a private member’s bill that amends the Criminal Code provisions relating to gambling on single sports games – currently illegal except for horse racing – in the aim to win back customers from offshore sites, US casinos and illegal bookmakers.

The upper house approved the bill on Tuesday by 57 to 20. It is now awaiting royal assent to become law.

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Tory MP Kevin Waugh’s bill has sparked renewed enthusiasm from lawmakers from all four major parties and marks the third time that a purported law with the same purpose has paved the way for Parliament – but never so far.

Similar legislation was passed by the House of Commons with all-party support nearly a decade ago, but sank in the Senate and died when an election was called in 2015.

A second attempt by NDP MP Brian Masse also failed after the then Liberal majority rejected his private member’s bill along with the Tories in 2016.

The Liberals then rolled the dice last November with their own legislation, which they then scrapped when Waugh agreed to incorporate his protections for the horse racing industry into his bill.

The bill was passed by the House with the support of several parties in February.

The legislation has been passed by the Canadian Football League, the National Hockey League and other professional sports. It has also garnered the provisional support of a tight-knit equestrian community that remains wary of foreign casinos and gambling sites encroaching on its territory.

Conservative Senator David Wells, who sponsored the bill in the upper house, predicted that legally allowing Las Vegas-style betting on single games would eat into the multibillion-dollar black market and redirect that revenue to provincial government coffers.

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Currently, he told the Senate in the final debate last week, “Canadians place billions of dollars in bets every year on these (offshore) sites, which are completely unregulated in Canada.”

Provincial governments, which regulate gambling in Canada, are calling for the legalization of single-event betting, Wells added, saying they could reap billions in revenue that could be used to support drug addiction research, health care, education and other priorities.

Several provinces are preparing to capture the accumulated revenue streams.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation is “positioned to allow betting on a single online event almost immediately” via PlayNow.comsaid Travis Paterson, spokesperson for the British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said in an interview that the province plans to “get the framework done by the fall” and implement the new regulations and licensing rules before the end of the year. ‘year.

The changes allowing bettors to bet on a single game of the British Columbia Lions or the Toronto Maple Leafs – regardless of the probability – require regulatory adjustments at the provincial level, but no legislative changes, thus easing the path to the end. single event game.

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More than two dozen U.S. states have moved to legalize single-event sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban in 2018, potentially siphoning off customers from Ontario casinos in Windsor and Niagara Falls.

Waugh said the main goal of Bill C-218 is to level the track globally against big foreign venues such as Bet365 and Bodog which raise more than $ 4 billion from Canadian bettors each year, according to the Canadian Games Association.

Casinos could also benefit, but British Columbia and Ontario say single-game betting will not be limited to the casino.

The CFL said in a statement that the approval of the bill by both chambers “will bring sports betting out of the shadows and into the light of day where it belongs.”

TheScore, which operates a popular betting application in North America, rates the online gambling market in Canada at between US $ 4.3 billion and US $ 5.4 billion in annual revenue.

“All those tax dollars are floating in the sky,” John Levy, president and CEO of the Toronto-based company, said in an interview.

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Players will be much more willing to put money on individual games rather than on Proline style bets – “parlays” where they bet on fixed odds around two or more games – he said.

“When you think of people who bet on sports, it’s basically, ‘Well, who do you like tonight? Are you going to bet on the Jays or are you going to bet on the Yankees? Said Levy, whose app competes with casinos and online sports betting giants such as New York-based FanDuel and Boston-based DraftKings.

Not everyone was so enthusiastic.

More than 20 senators voted in favor of a pair of amendments that were not passed last week. The proposed changes would have sent the bill back to the House of Commons for further consideration, potentially cementing its defeat as MPs prepare to rise for summer recess on Wednesday – their fall return remains uncertain before a probable election.

“This bill has many tentacles that could and should have been examined more closely,” said Senator Vern White, a member of the Canadian Senators’ Group who introduced an amendment last week calling for match-fixing be listed as a crime.

The original goal of the federal single-event sports betting ban was to reduce match-fixing – it’s easier to plot when there is only one game to handle – but it has increasingly become more ineffective amid the rise of offshore betting sites.

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Senator Brent Cotter, a member of the Independent Senators Group, said Supreme Court precedents and legal advice provided to a Senate committee “made it clear” that the Criminal Code provisions on fraud and “gambling” already covered match-fixing.

The risk of manipulation persists at lower levels such as minor league hockey or baseball, he said, where players earn much less than their big league counterparts, making the need to remove the game from the big leagues. the claws of the black market all the more urgent.

“There is a risk that players are likely to be bribed to start a game. And then they’re drawn into a culture where they’re blackmailed to keep doing more, ”Cotter said in an interview.

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawa: ke had also called for adjustments to allow indigenous entities to run a lottery program, including sports betting. Independent Senator Mary Jane McCallum tabled an amendment in this vein which was defeated on Monday by a vote of 43-21.

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