Momentum grows for Canada sports betting as C-218 passes second reading in House of Commons

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Canada has moved another step closer to the legalization of single event sports betting this week, with Private Members Bill C-218 passing a second reading in the House of Commons. It has now been referred to committee for further consideration, one of many key stages that the legislation will have to go through to become enshrined in law.

With this latest hurdle cleared, proponents of legalization are calling for sustained pressure in order to ensure that Bill C-218 makes it across the finish line.

Among them is the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) which has urged Ottawa to work collaboratively to get sports betting on the statute books. 

Director of egaming Stewart Groumoutis said: “We’re calling on all Members of Parliament to work together collaboratively to legalize single-event betting for the benefit of our players and provinces. Our players want single-event sports betting, and we are ready to provide this enhanced offering to them in a safe and responsible manner while also generating additional revenue for the Province of BC.”

The sticking point for sports betting in Canada is the Canadian Criminal Code which originally forbade all forms of gambling in the country, although now permits parlay wagering on sporting events.

Placing single-event sports bets requires travel to casinos across the border such as Washington State or wagering with unregulated, offshore gambling websites.

According to BCLC, its website – the only such regulated facility in BC – could quickly create a new suite of sports betting opportunities. In the longer term, in land-based casinos and community gaming centers, it said it would work with industry, regulator and government partners to introduce licensed sportsbooks in key markets. 

Additionally, BCLC revealed it would consider enhanced sports-betting offerings at hospitality locations across BC that sell lottery products, such as bars and pubs. The corporation also projected that single-event sports betting would generate an estimated CA$125m to CA$175m in additional revenue through online and land-based opportunities.

Adding to the calls for legalization this week was John Levy, Founder and CEO of Score Media and Gaming. Commenting on the passing of the second reading, he said: “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. We expect that the legalization of single event sports betting will facilitate the introduction by provinces and territories of a much-needed modernized sports betting framework in their respective jurisdictions that can include important consumer protections and the ability to generate new revenue streams for provincial and territorial governments.”

He 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.”

theScore also offered its own estimates on the market potential for online gaming in Canada, predicting annual gross gaming revenue of US$3.8bn and US$5.4bn based on historical data extrapolated from legal online gaming markets in the US and globally.