Canada’s sports betting future looking bright after C-218 passes the House of Commons

Jay Dieffenbach

Canada moved closer to legalizing single-event sports wagering, with legislation passing the House of Commons and advancing to the Canadian Senate.

The House’s third debate and vote pushed forward the proposal, Bill C-218, that would amend the Criminal Code to allow provinces and territories to regulate online and in-person bets on individual sports events.

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on May 4, but it may not address C-218 immediately. Canadian political process generally dictates that deals with government legislation come before private member's bills such as C-218.

As it stands today in Canada, the law is that most legal sports bets have to include at least two events — parlay wagering. The only exception is wagering on horse races, considered a single event.

The bill’s passage would bring major revenue to Canada – and prevent it from continuing to leak offshore.

According to the Canadian Gaming Association, approximately $14 billion per year in wagers from Canadians finds a home in offshore sportsbooks.

Deloitte Canada reported recently that, should Bill C-218 become law, Canadian sports betting could grow from $500 million to nearly $28 billion in legal-market wagering within five years.

One of the bill’s primary backers is Saskatchewan Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, who has supported C-218 as a private member’s bill.

“This bill has the potential to unlock new growth opportunities, reduce illegal betting and generate revenues for both the sporting industry and governments,” he told members of the House on Thursday.

The bill has seen only one exception throughout the approval process: an amendment to keep intact Canada’s pari-mutuel betting system for horse racing.

Score Media and Gaming, Bragg Gaming Group and FansUnite Entertainment are among the Canadian companies eager to grab a share of the market.

"Now that Bill C-218 has been passed by the House, we look forward to the Senate swiftly carrying the ball over the goal line," Score Media and Gaming CEO John Levy said in a statement Thursday night.

“We commend the members on all sides of the House of Commons for quickly passing this much-needed legislation. Today’s development is a major step forward and we are increasingly encouraged by the widespread industry and strong cross-party support that Bill C-218 has garnered.”

Levy’s company estimates a market potential for online gaming in Canada of between US$3.8 billion and US$5.4 billion in annual gross gaming revenue, based on historical data extrapolated from legal online gaming markets in the U.S. and globally.

Other prominent sportsbook operators are following the Canadian progress closely.

BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt acknowledged the opportunity and said his sportsbook would be active; DraftKings expanded its NFL daily fantasy sports deal earlier this year to include Canada; and Caesars, which just closed its deal to acquire William Hill, operates Caesars Windsor in Ontario.

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