Eskil Kvarnström, Founder and CEO at affiliate Leadstar Media, reflects on the current efforts being made to legalize single event sports betting in Canada and underlines why change is so necessary.

The legalization of single-event sports betting is once again a topic of discussion in Canada’s House of Commons, as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act is proposed by MPs.

Bill C-218 has been co-sponsored and put forward by Brian Masse and Kevin Waugh, three-and-a-half years after the most recent failed attempt to amend the Criminal Code.

An estimated $14bn is wagered through illegal or offshore gambling by Canadians each year and Waugh, the Conservative MP for Saskatoon – Grasswood, highlighted how legalization of single-game sports betting would positively impact the economy and generate more jobs in Canada.

“None of that activity is subject to government regulations or taxes. None of it is creating jobs in this country or economic opportunities,” he said. “And none of it is contributing to consumer protection, to education, to harm reduction and initiatives or support services,which are badly needed I must say in this country.” 

The bill will be debated and voted on in the coming weeks, with an outcome expected around a key time in the Canadian sporting calendar – the beginning of the NHL and NBA playoffs, and the start of the MLB campaign.

As it stands, the only way for Canadians to legally bet on sports without turning to overseas online betting sites is by placing parlay bets through provincial lotteries.

International betting sites offer bettors from Canada the opportunity to wager on single events, thus reducing the odds and increasing the chances of winning. While this is a solution that suffices for many punters, Canada is losing out on a huge number of tax dollars as long as this is going on.

If Bill C-218 does pass in time for the NHL playoffs, then this presents an instant opportunity for bettors in Canada that are reluctant to wager with sportsbooks licensed elsewhere.

No longer would Canadians be forced to put multiple teams on their bet ticket, but they could instead be able to choose from one of the many single markets offered on any given game, such as the moneyline, puck line, total goals, and various player props.

Bookmakers also accept wagers on the winners of each division, conference, and the Stanley Cup, offering far more flexibility and options than what is currently presented by provincial lotteries.

Having the ability to bet on single games online at any time allows bettors to be smarter with their picks and look to beat the closing line and use advanced stats and metrics to eke out more value.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made his stance clear on sports betting after the league entered into a partnership with MGM Resorts in 2018, saying: “The new sports betting landscape presents a unique opportunity for fan engagement utilizing technology and data that are exclusive to our League.”

The spring represents a key time for North American sports, and an improved environment for bettors would also bring more opportunities for affiliates such as Leadstar Media. COO Oscar Carlsson believes Canada should follow in the footsteps of the United States, where sports betting was legalized in May 2018.

“The Canadian market is the one territory, along with the US, that excites me the most,” he said. “We recently launched, a betting site comparison website, and we have been blown away by the response. The appetite for sports betting is huge in Canada, and at the moment it is the overseas companies reaping the rewards.

“The market may not yet be as mature as some other territories in which we operate, but from what we are seeing right now in terms of interest and betting knowledge, it won’t take long for it to catch up.”