Attorney General David Lametti ‘pleased’ to welcome Royal Assent of Bill C-218 – legalized single-game sports betting

Photo courtesy: David Lametti

The legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada has received Royal Assent.

According to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti Bill C-218 will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

“I am pleased to welcome the Royal Assent of Private Member’s Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), which will bring the common practice of single event sport betting into a legal, regulated and safe environment, while strengthening our economy and supporting well-paying jobs for Canadians.

“The federal government supports this law reform. Bill C-218 amends paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to permit provinces and territories to conduct and manage single event betting on any sporting event, except horse racing, which will be maintained by the federal government. The federal government proposed similar amendments through Bill C-13 in November 2020, and I am pleased that the amendments ultimately enacted in Bill C-218 are aligned with this foundational work. Bill C-218 will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

“These amendments to the Criminal Code give provinces and territories the discretion to conduct and manage single event sport betting in their respective jurisdictions and offer Canadians an opportunity to place bets in a regulated environment either online or in physical facilities.

“The revenues generated from this type of gambling could be used by provinces and territories to fund programs and services in areas such as health care and education, as they currently do with other lottery revenues. The amendments clearly respond to calls from labour leaders, particularly in communities along the Canada-U.S. border, following similar changes made in a number of border states.

“Additionally, the Government of Canada is currently engaging with provinces and territories and with Indigenous nations, communities and organizations that have expressed an interest in discussing how gambling is regulated in Canada to better understand and respond to calls for greater opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to participate in the conduct and regulation of gaming in Canada.

“C-218 is a Private Member’s Bill, and as such its passage is the result of cooperation of members from all parties. I want to thank my colleagues Irek Kusmierczyk, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, Chris Bittle, the member for St. Catharines, Vance Badawey, the member for Niagara Centre, as well as Kevin Waugh, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, and Brian Masse, the member for Windsor West. These members, from three different parties, demonstrated how important legislation can drive cooperation across party lines.”

The legislation was sponsored by Conservative Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh, a self-identified fan of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It received 57 votes for, 20 votes against, and five abstentions in the final Senate vote.

The Canadian Gaming Association has been working with industry experts and provincial gaming regulators to support the development of sport and event wagering regulation that will be adopted across Canada.

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.

Canadians enjoy sports betting because they are wagering approximately $10 billion 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 were 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.

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.