Odds Against Bill C-290 to Legalize Single Match Sports Betting Getting Approved at Senate Level

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The Canadian Criminal Code only allows legal betting on three or more sports games at a time. Bill C-290 would change that to allow for single-game sports betting.  The House of Commons approved the bill unanimously last March. The Bill was put forward by NDP MP Joe Comartin, who argued that the current law against betting on a single game diverts millions in potential revenue to organized crime.

Bill C-290’s fate now rests with the Senate but it appears as though a large number of members from both Conservative and Liberal parties are prepared to defeat the bill, influenced by intense last-minute lobbying by professional sports leagues including the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association who have opposed the Bill arguing that it will lead to more cases of gambling addiction, increase the threat of match fixing and undermine fans’ trust in their respective on-field products.

The provincial lotteries currently offer sports betting to their customers who must pick a minimum of three sports outcomes correctly in order to win. While picking 3 winners correctly is not impossible but betting on a single match evens the playing field with the bookmaker.

Having to pick 3 matches, also forces someone such as a fan of one team to bet on other games he may not be interested in.

Allowing bets on single matches makes sense. Say somebody likes to bet occasionally and only bets on special events like the Super Bowl, the NHL Finals, or a UFC fight, under the current laws, it would be impossible to make a bet on such an outcome without including two other sports outcomes into the mix.

Those in favour of the bill include casino owners and gaming associations saying the change would create jobs and generate revenues for government while fighting offshore gambling.

Sports betting is readily available to the public via the internet where players can bet on a single match and those bookmaking services are even offered from long-established publicly traded companies licensed overseas. Add a nice bonus offer and for a customer this definitely makes for an interesting proposition to good to pass up with his odds of making a profit increased.

One of the worries expressed by some of the professional sports associations who oppose the Bill is the potential for increased match fixing. Match fixing has become a growing problem in the sports world, especially in leagues where player salaries dwarf the potential payoff of fixing a match to score big by betting on the match itself. Those same professional associations represent sports that one can bet on in almost any Las Vegas and Atlantic City casino so why should they be against it in Canada where the  sports betting market is only a fraction of the size of the United States?

To help put to rest some of the concerns expressed, the government could get creative and issue betting cards to gamblers, similar to issuing a drivers license and maintain a central database to track problem gamblers or suspicious activity. A maximum bet amount could also be imposed as well as tracking betting, especially for those who place bets at kiosks. Systems encompassing such features exist in countries like Sweden.

The Senate has only defeated a bill eight times in the last 70 years and 133 times since 1867.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this one. Maybe someone should offer odds on the outcome.

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