Single-game sports betting to be legal starting August 27

Photo courtesy: David Lametti

More than a month after Bill C-218 received Royal Assent, Canadians now have a date set for when they can legally engage in single-game sports betting.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti announced on Thursday that the legal gambling legislation would finally come into force on August 27, providing a much-needed financial boost to struggling CFL franchises. The onus now falls on the provinces to determine how the new-form of gambling will be managed and regulated.

“I am pleased to announce that single event sport betting will be legal in Canada on August 27. Canadians will have the opportunity to participate in single event sport betting in a regulated and safe environment, at the discretion of the provinces and territories. The Government of Canada will continue discussions on the future of gaming, collaboratively with provincial and Indigenous partners,” Lametti said in his statement.

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.

“Canadians have been able to legally bet on sports for a long time through parlays. However, instead of creating jobs and boosting our local tourism industry, single event sport betting has been a black market that evaded taxes and directed funds to organized crime,” Chris Bittle, the Member of Parliament for St. Catherines, said as part of the announcement. “Single event sport betting is a multi-billion dollar industry and its legalization will add to our economy, create jobs and boost tourism.”

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.