Bill C-218 passed through the Senate with flying colours on Tuesday, bringing single-game betting to the cusp of legalization in Canada.
Those in Canada’s sports industry might call that the best thing since sliced bread, but Saskatchewan Roughriders’ president and CEO Craig Reynolds took it one hyperbole further ahead of the club’s AGM on Wednesday.
“If you look at what’s happened since television, it’s certainly one of, if not the biggest thing, from a revenue opportunity,” Reynolds told Britton Gray of 980 CJME.
“We know football is the most bet-on sport in North America. We have that product here in Canada and as a result of that, we have lots of opportunities to capture fans, capture casual fans and capture fans in markets where the CFL isn’t as strong.”
Canada has had legal sports wagering for decades however Canadians could only place wagers through a parlay bet, which means betting on and correctly predicting the outcome of at least two or more games in order to win the bet. That’s a tough sell for the casual fan.
Approximately $10 billion is wagered annually through illegal bookmaking operations in Canada, usually operated by organized crime. Additionally, more than $4 billion is wagered through offshore online sports wagering sites.
Currently, only $500 million is wagered through legal provincial sports lottery products offered to Canadians, which means many people are betting through illegal and often dangerous means.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie wrote a letter to the standing committee on justice and human rights calling the legislation ‘a vital economic tool’ for the league. In total, Bill C-218 is worth an estimated $2 million per team and $20 million for the league overall, which could help the CFL mitigate the losses suffered amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a cancelled 2020 season.
That’s also true for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who announced later in the evening that they lost more than $7.5 million due to the pandemic cancelled 2020 season.
“There will be opportunities at the team level as it relates to sponsorship and from a fan engagement perspective and hopefully that translates to ticket sales from potentially a casual fan who becomes a bit more of an avid fan through that avenue,” Reynold said.
The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act must receive Royal Assent from the Administrator of Canada to become law, which is considered a formality.
Following Royal Assent, provinces will have the authority to deliver a safe, legal, and controlled sports betting option to Canadians. The Government of Saskatchewan is currently considering how they will address the new legislation.
Sponsored by Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh, a self-identified fan of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, there is plenty of Saskie pride for the rare triumph of a private member’s bill.
“From a league perspective, it is something that is very positive for the league and presents a lot of opportunities and to have that come from someone in Saskatchewan, I think there’s a bit of pride that the province should feel about that,” Reynolds added.