Legalization of single-game sports betting could be worth $20 million annually for CFL

Photo courtesy: CFL

Single-game sports betting could provide a huge boost to the Canadian sports industry with the CFL as one of its primary beneficiaries.

“There really is a wide discrepancy as to what that could do for the league financially,” said TSN’s Farhan Lalji following conversations with experts in the sports gaming industry. “A number of the experts have said, ‘Look, there’s simply no way to gauge exactly how much it’s going to be worth.’

“Others have said, ‘This is going to be the second-biggest revenue generator behind the television deal.’ Some estimates have been around $2 million per team — $20 million for the league — so it’s going to be interesting to see how that eventually manifests itself.”

The $20 million figure is intriguing considering CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie told the House of Commons standing finance committee in May 2020 that the CFL loses $10 to $20 million per season. This means single-game sports betting could single-handedly allow the league to be profitable without any improvements to other areas of its business model.

The CFL should also see an increase in its traditional revenue streams as a side benefit of legalized gambling. It stands to reason that if people are betting on games, they are more likely to buy tickets, watch them on TV, and consume pre and post-game analysis. One of the reasons the NFL was able to negotiate a new $113 billion TV deal was the fan interest generated by fantasy sports and gambling.

Bill C-218 has passed its third reading in the House of Commons and has moved onto the Senate, where it can be passed into law. It was introduced by Saskatoon-Grasswood member of parliament Kevin Waugh in 2020 to end an outdated restriction on single-event sports betting, an industry worth $14 billion in Canada.

Ambrosie wrote a letter of support for Bill C-218 in March 2021, calling it a “vital economic tool” for the CFL. Considering the new law could help make the CFL profitable overnight, it’s easy to see why.