Canada’s Sports Betting Market Set to be Legalized

Posted in Stories No Comments

The clock is ticking on proposed legislation that would effectively legalize single-event sports betting in Canada. Known as Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, the proposed legislation passed second reading in Canada’s House of Commons last month, and is currently stalled in the Senate, until the upper house of Canada’s Parliament returns to session on Tuesday, May 25. CanadianBettingSites has been following the progress of those crucial pieces of legislation through Canada’s Parliament.

canada sports betting

Legislation Stalled in the Senate, Yet Again

Bill C-218 sailed through the House of Commons, with February’s second reading passing by a wide 303-15 margin, and could become law as early as next month, if the Senate does not return it to the House for further amendments. While confidence is high that the bill will pass muster in the Senate, things would change in an event of a federal election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party does not hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, but with a glimmer of light appearing at the end of the pandemic tunnel, the possibility exists that Trudeau may call a snap election in the coming months. That would result in the current session of Parliament being dissolved, and the death of any proposed legislation under debate in both the lower and upper house.

The proposed legislation could also die if Trudeau’s government opts to once again prorogue Parliament ahead of the next scheduled election in late 2023, further adding to the urgency to get Bill C-218 through the Senate. And that is indeed what happened to an earlier version of the bill, which was one of the casualties of Trudeau’s decision to prorogue Parliament last summer at the height of the We charity scandal engulfing his government.

Sports Betting Gaining Widespread Acceptance

Unlike the growing number of US states that have legalized sports betting in the three years since the Supreme Court struck down a longstanding federal law that outlawed the activity in almost every state in the union, there has been little reform of sports betting laws in Canada. Currently, the heavily regulated Canadian sports betting market restricts bettors to parlay wagers, often with severe limits on the action.

In addition, the current Canadian sports betting marketplace is currently dominated by provincially operated gaming entities, whose offerings pale in comparison to the steadily widening choice of betting options in the US. As a result, Canadian sports bettors have come to rely heavily on offshore sportsbooks, many of which played a key role in what has been growing social acceptance of sports betting.

Familiar Names Set to Open Canadian Market

With the successful passage of Bill C-218, the door opens for those same operators to further expand into the Canadian market, and overcome many of the regulatory obstacles they faced while servicing Canadian customers.

Even before Bill C-218 becomes law, an increasing number of sportsbooks are taking steps to raise their profile in the Canadian market. Familiar sportsbook brands like, Betway, Bodog, and Sports Interaction are engaging potential customers with TV commercials and have gained prominence with on-board and on-ice advertising during this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Canadian Market Poised for Exponential Growth

While sports betting may be new for most Canadians, the market in Canada is both well-established and lucrative. According to a report recently submitted by Rogers Communications to the parliamentary committee study Bill C-218, Canadian regulated sports betting Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) in 2019 was estimated to $242 million, with Ontario accounting for over half of all land-based sports betting that year. Another report pegged that 2019 number as high as $323 million.

Conservative Party MP Kevin Waugh sponsored the bill in the House of Commons. He estimates that the successful passage of Bill C-218 could boost sports betting GGR in Canada to over $10 billion per year, and provide Canadian sports bettors high quality, better-regulated sports betting options right here at home.

Canadian Sports Betting Legal Wrangling Nothing New

Attempts to overhaul the federal legislation governing Canada’s sports betting market are nothing new. Joe Comartin, an NDP MP from Windsor, Ontario and former leader of the opposition in the House of Commons introduced a private member’s bill intended to legalize single-event sports betting, back in 2011. But while Bill C-290 passed in the House of Commons, it too was the casualty of a Senate that was out of session and died with the dissolution of Parliament in 2012.

Brian Masse, another long-time NDP MP from Windsor, revived Bill C-290 in 2014. But with little appetite for change among his fellow Parliamentarians, and vocal opposition to the bill from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, that attempt also fell short, ending with the call for a federal election in the fall of 2015 that brought Trudeau to power.

Could this fourth attempt to overall sports betting in Canada finally succeed? With so much money on the line, and a burgeoning base of sports bettors that have demonstrated they will lay bets whether it is legal or not, expect Bill C-218 to be given the attention its predecessors richly deserved.