Countdown for Canadian sports betting bill as Senate prepares for summer recess

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Today is shaping up to be a crunch day for Canada’s ambitions to legalize single-event sports betting, with the Canadian Senate set to resume the debate on Bill C-218

The timing is crucial given that today marks the beginning of the final week of activity for the Canadian Senate which is scheduled to adjourn for the summer recess on Wednesday. 

That window of opportunity to squeeze the bill through could, however, be compromised by one amendment raised on behalf of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake late last week by Senator Mary Jane McCallum

She proposes to amend C-218 to include wording that would enable indigenous tribes to offer single-game sports betting. 

The Kahnawake Tribe, which currently offers online single-event sports wagering, has stated that it does not oppose the legalization of sports betting per se. But it remains concerned that Parliament has failed to recognize Aboriginal rights held by indigenous communities to officially offer sports wagering under a revised criminal code. 

The amendment sought by the tribe would change the language in C-218 to recognize First Nations’ eligibility to offer single-event sports betting without the requirement for provincial approval.

With a vote on the amendment likely to take place later today, the bill’s passage is not guaranteed, say supporters. They argue that any changes to the language would not be processed in time for the Parliamentary break.

But while hopes are still high for C-218 to make the cut this week, supporters will be pushing hard to ensure it gets passed without the need for further amendment. 

Expectations are high for a special election to be called before the Senate reconvenes in September, which would push the bill down the political agenda. The worst-case scenario is that the enabling legislation risks being sidelined until next year at the earliest.