Canada continues moves to legalize sports betting but hurdles still remain

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Efforts to progress new legislation legalizing single-event sports betting in Canada have continued, with Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, subject to two days of witness testimony with the Senate’s Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee last week. 

After the final witnesses appeared, the Committee proceeded to a clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill, which will be referred back to the Senate on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

Among the witnesses was Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, accompanied by Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner, Canadian Football League; Chief Gina Deer, Mohawk Council of Kahanwà:ke; Zane Hansen, President & CEO, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority; Shelley White, CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council; and Stewart Groumoutis, Director eGaming, British Columbia Lottery Corporation.

Submissions were also made from several organizations including the Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Corporation.

But while hopes remain firmly pinned on a successful passage of Bill C-218, some senators are yet to be convinced that its place on the statute books can be confirmed without further safeguards put in place. 

According to a report in The Globe & Mail, former Ottawa police chief Vernon White has proposed an amendment that, if approved, would send the proposed legislation back to the House of Commons for yet another vote.

In that case, final approval for the bill might not be sealed before June 23 when the House and Senate are scheduled to halt business for the summer recess.

While White stated he is not against single-event sports betting in Canada, he believes that an amendment to the bill is required to make it unlawful to participate in the fixing of a sporting event. Quoted by The Globe & Mail, he said: “My primary concern is that we have not corrected that. And it’s an easy amendment.” 

Senator Brent Cotter, the official critic of the bill, explained that the Senate’s banking committee will likely consider White’s proposed amendment. “If it doesn’t succeed there, my guess is that it might get considered back in the Senate, on the chamber floor at third reading,” he said in the report. 

He added that the prospect of the bill passing by summer is better than 50/50, a probability that will not sound entirely encouraging to the professional sports leagues and large sports betting and media organizations that have lobbied senators to get the bill passed swiftly.