Single Game Sports Betting Race Nears the Finish Line in Canada

Jay Dieffenbach

The proverbial sports betting puck is in the crease, and Canada’s legislators are very close to putting it in the back of the net.

Parliament voted Wednesday to pass the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, and legalized single-game sports betting in Canada is edging closer to reality.

Bill C-218 passed its second reading in the House of Commons, 303-15, on Wednesday and will now be referred to the Commons justice committee for further study.

Widely expected to pass, the legislation is great news for iGaming companies such as Canada's Score Media and Gaming Inc. and FansUnite Entertainment Inc.

US companies such as DraftKings, Penn National Gaming and Skillz Inc. are ready to capitalize, having already partnered with the Canadian Football League.

The impact is expected to be significant. The American Gaming Association reported legal sports betting generated $1.5 billion in revenue alone in the U.S. in 2020.

By contrast, the Canadian Gaming Association said only $500 million total is legally bet on sports in Canada.

The Path to Single Game Sports Betting in Canada

The bill now enters the final phase in hearings before moving to the senate and then to the Governor-General for “Royal Assent.”

Once signed, the supervision of the legislation moves to the provinces to decide on how they will offer sports betting to residents.

The earliest estimates say the single-game betting will be available by June, while more conservative estimates are for action to be underway in Canada before NFL kickoff in September.

Meanwhile, Bill C-13, a government-backed bill that would also see the legalization of single-game betting, is projected to have debate on its second reading on Friday.

Only a single vote shy of a unanimous approval, the bill’s passage would have enabled the legislation to proceed from a first reading last December directly to the Senate.

When two pieces of legislation that are similar as these advance through the House simultaneously, the Speaker can make a determination that only one of them needs to move forward.

As of today, there is no timetable in place for a third reading of either bill.

If passed, the bill would amend the criminal code for single-game sports betting, which is currently prohibited. Right now, provincial lotteries offer the only regulated sports betting in Canada, under a parlay-only format.

From there, it would fall to Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories to decide how single-game wagering will be presented to prospective bettors.

The Impetus and Momentum

Bill C-218, introduced Nov. 25 and sponsored by conservative Kevin Waugh, was helped along in part by the move to legalize sports betting in the United States, as well as the estimated $15 billion a year bet in Canada through online sportsbooks or illegal channels.

“We are thrilled to see such overwhelming all-party support for Bill C-218,” Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, told Covers.com. “Our congratulations go to Kevin Waugh for his tireless efforts to get his bill to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for further study.”

Bill C-13, if voted through, would also go to the justice committee and it’s likely only one of these bills would return to the House for a final vote before heading to the Senate for approval.

"We look forward to the government’s own bill, C-13 following Bill C-218 to committee on Friday and build on the momentum so we can complete the legislative process this spring," Burns says.

Perspective from Canadian Operators

Canada’s theScore, among the more popular sports apps in the country, ranked No. 1 in the Google Play store early last month, according to traffic-tracking firm SimilarWeb.

The company said in a Toronto Star story it has about four million daily active users, with more than 1.4 million in Ontario alone.

Founder of theScore and company CEO John Levy issued the following statement on Wednesday:

“As Canada’s leading mobile sports media brand with a uniquely integrated sports betting platform, we look forward to collaborating with key stakeholders as the legislative process continues, to ensure that betting reform works for all Canadians and their communities.

“Today’s development in the House of Commons, focusing on the legalization of single event sports betting in Canada, is a significant step forward in the process to amend an outdated law. The positive outcome of today’s vote demonstrates the continuing momentum and strong cross-party support for this issue.”

Levy also cited the importance of a recognized framework as well as key protections for customers.

And, ever the shrewd businessman and marketer, Levy added: 

“As Canada’s leading mobile sports media brand with a uniquely integrated sports betting platform, we look forward to collaborating with key stakeholders as the legislative process continues, to ensure that betting reform works for all Canadians and their communities.”

Also feeling a positive impact was Chris Neville, CEO of i3, whose company is among the industry leaders.

“The passing of Bill C-218 in the House of Commons with a vote of 303-15 is a positive move for the online gambling industry in Canada,” Neville said in a statement. “The state of New Jersey alone is generating $1 billion of taxable income per month for the New Jersey government with NJ receiving 16.5% of this billion monthly. With the recent pandemic and the state of the financial economy of Canada, this bill comes at the best time possible.”

For sports betting enthusiasts in a country whose population of about 37 million is a couple of million fewer than California, this likely feels like the big leagues.

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