Legal sports betting in the Great White North is becoming a reality. If a new bill is passed, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens would be the popular teams for sports bettors.
Parliament’s House of Commons is reviewing the bill sponsored by MP Kevin Waugh (Conservative, Saskatoon-Grasswood). At issue is whether the money would go for the public good or just a way to fund crime. Waugh first filed his bill in February during the first session of the current Parliament.
In June, major professional sports leagues, including the NHL, NBA, MLB, and the Canadian Football League, revealed support of the measure.
The process is complicated. It is now up to the House of Commons to delegate the bill to a committee for further discussions. Then it must go back to the House for a third reading, debate, and a vote. If that vote succeeds, it moves to the Senate.
At present sports betting is only done through parlay bets. Thus, illegal bookies and unregulated offshore apps were busy taking sports wagers.
According to Waugh, parlay betting generates about CAD500 million ($380.8 million), and single-game betting could generate upwards of CAD14 billion ($10.66 billion). The bill is supported by the Liberal, Conservative, Bloc Québécois, and New Democratic parties.
Ontario lawmakers are in favor as they see the casinos bordering Michigan and New York threatened as sports betting is legal in those US states. According to Brian Masse, MP (NDP-Windsor West),
“Billions of dollars of legally regulated betting are now at risk.
When we look at communities like Windsor or Hamilton and across the country, we have tourist destinations.
Of note, Waugh’s bill has the support of Score Media and Gaming Inc., a Toronto-based sports media company. It runs mobile sports betting apps in Colorado, Indiana, and New Jersey. According to John Levy, Score Founder and CEO,
“Canadians deserve a modernized, regulated, and competitive sports betting
market. The reintroduction of this bill is another important step in that direction.”
There is always opposition. MP Adam Vaughan (Liberal-Spadina-Fort York), who serves the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, has attacked casinos for bankrupting customers.
“The trouble is that casinos take four dollars out of the local economy for every
dollar that goes into it. Why would you want to bankrupt small business right now…”
Also opposed is the Canadian horse racing industry. The bill would allow sportsbooks to offer wagering on racing, potentially undermining pari-mutuel wagering that supports horse owners and innumerable horsemen.
According to Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, he recognizes an opportunity for the Canadian economy to benefit from the legalization of sports wagering, but not at the cost of the horse racing industry.
“(It) has been an important part of the economy for decades. We would
be supportive of the legalization of sports betting in Canada if our
concerns were addressed through a legislative process.”
Woodbine, along with Ontario Racing (among other racing interests groups in Canada), wants Prime Minister Trudeau’s to take up single-game sports betting in its upcoming economic statement or next year’s budget.
They are asking the administration to ensure that only tracks may offer betting on races. In addition, they want historical horse racing legalized. Racing proponents avow that this would help supplement any revenue lost to legal single-game betting.