Single-game sports betting could ‘change the financial landscape’ of the CFL: Suitor

Photo courtesy: TSN/Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television

Single-game sports betting looks to be headed towards legalization in Canada and CFL analyst Glen Suitor can barely contain his excitement.

The long-time TSN broadcaster and former CFL All-Star safety with the Saskatchewan Roughriders joined guest host Michael Ball on The SportsCage Thursday and practically gushed about the new piece of legislation.

“Let me go over some numbers on what this could mean. Right now, there are 20 states in the US where you can gamble legally,” Suitor explained. “That is just legal gambling because the illegal gambling, the gambling that goes offshore, in Canada alone I believe it was Conservative MP Michael Kram when he was talking to the House of Commons that mentioned that there is around $14 billion dollars a year being bet illegally and offshore.”

“Now you might not get all of that back, but if betting becomes legal in our provinces and you can work out deals with the CFL, the states that allowed gambling generated $444 million in bets [just for the Super Bowl]. That created $42 million in revenue for these states.”

That type of monetary infusion over the course of a season could be a game-changer for the CFL.

“I don’t know the minutiae of a deal like this, but if you just had a deal where 10% of that money went back to the Canadian Football League in some way, gambling within the stadiums or that kind of thing, you are talking about another $4 million dollars a year in revenue,” Suitor said.

Randy Ambrosie agree with the veteran broadcaster. The CFL commissioner signed a joint statement last June with four major pro sports leagues that operate in Canada to urge the government to take ‘prompt action’ and legalize single-game sports betting.

That began to come to fruition Tuesday when Bill C-218, a private member’s bill tabled by Saskatoon-Grasswood MP and Riders fan Kevin Waugh, passed its second reading in the House. Fellow Riders fan and Regina-Wascana MP Michael Kram called it a bill that could ‘save’ the CFL in an impassioned speech before the vote.

While legal gambling would give the CFL a massive boost, Suitor says they won’t be the lone beneficiary.

“The news today on Bill C-218, the revenues that are possible from that bill being voted in alone could change the complete financial landscape in a positive way for the Canadian Football League. That’s good for CFL and CFL fans for sure, but there is also a trickle down effect that goes to infrastructure and amateur sports,” Suitor said.

“Now when you’re making money at the pro level in Saskatchewan, the 50/50 is much bigger than just the 50/50 at a game. It becomes a percentage of money from gambling on the game goes to amateur football infrastructure in the province and funding flag football leagues and women’s football and all of the great ideas that a lot of people have.”

Fans and media have criticized the CFL for a lack of youth outreach and their dwindling presence in minor football in recent years. It’s the size of the financial contribution that Suitor believes is is holding them back.

“The finances just aren’t in place to do it correctly,” Suitor admits. “Right now there are thousand, literally thousands of amateur football players in our country that aren’t going to CFL games. That is the low hanging fruit that needs to be addressed, but some of the initiatives you talk about take money.”

The solution? I bet you already know the answer.

“How do you get that extra revenue? Well, Bill C-218 might go a long way to doing that.”