Under the criminal code of Canada, it is illegal for any organization, even provincial governments and lotteries to offer single event sports betting. The provinces have claimed that this law has put them at a competitive disadvantage, especially with offshore online sports betting sites that are able to offer these types of bets.
A private member’s bill that would legalize single-game sports betting in Canada has passed third reading on Parliament Hill since first being introduced in February 2011 followed by a 2nd reading on September 28, 2011. Bill C-290 would allow gamblers to place bets on just one sporting event.
Betting on the outcome of a single sports game is prohibited across North America, except in Nevada, where the option is popular and very profitable for the Las Vegas casinos.
Bill C-290 was offered to the Canadian House of Commons by Joe Comartin, a Member of Parliament representing the riding of Windsor-Tecumseh. Mr. Comartin had reintroduced his private member’s bill that would repeal of one very small section of the Criminal Code to allow the provincial governments to offer betting on single sporting events, an activity from which they are currently barred.
When Mr. Comartin first offered up this bill in February 2011, he was vague as to his reasoning and the level of support he had for the bill. As of November 1, 2011, his rationale was considerably clearer:
… the primary purpose behind this bill is twofold: first, to create greater employment opportunities in the gaming industry in Canada and in all the provinces who pick this up; and second, at least as important, it is a blow against organized crime that has captured,controls and is making huge profits from it …
… both the Province of Ontario and the Province of British Columbia are on record with letters to the federal justice minister asking him to proceed with this type of amendment. The government up to this point has not proceeded that way, although I am expecting, and I may be overly optimistic because this is a private member’s bill,substantial support from the government side as well as from our colleagues in the Liberal Party.
Let me indicate the support that we have had. I have already indicated that both the Province of Ontario and the Province of British Columbia have sought this amendment from the federal government. A number of municipalities, including the City of Niagara Falls and the City of Windsor, the Canadian Gaming Association, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation have all indicated their support.
According to Mr. Comartin, there is an estimated $2 billion spent in Canada annually on sports betting activities with all of that money going out of the country to organized crime syndicates in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
However, according to the Canadian Gaming Association, currently, there is upwards of $10 Billion in sports betting going on Canada, only $450 Million of which is considered legal.
Currently, the only type of sports betting permitted is pari-mutuel betting or pool betting which involves betting on the outcome of multiple events and horse racing. In spring 2004, the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Association (CPMA) permitted Canada’s first legal, on-line wagering site, allowing people to use Internet services for wagering on horse races.
(special thanks: Dickinson Wright Gaming Attorneys)