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Canada LEGALIZES Single-Game Sports Bets With Bill C-218

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Placing single sports bets on football, ice hockey, and various other events is on the verge of becoming a legal activity within Canada. Once made a part of federal law, the likelihood is that each of the ten provinces will be looking to take hold and introduce it to their residents.

Bill C-218, which is the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, has been approved by the Canadian Senate, operating as an act to amend the Criminal Code on sports betting. Through it, an amendment to paragraph 207 (4)(b) of the Criminal Code will “make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race – other than a horse-race – or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest,” according to the bill's summary.

Previously, wagers involving the outcome of a single sporting event were not permitted to be offered by gambling entities licensed in Canada. However, bets involving more than one team, like parlays, were already legal.

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Upper Chamber Approves Bill by Significant Share of Votes

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It was on Tuesday, June 22 that Bill C-218 was put to the vote in the upper chamber. It is now awaiting royal assent to become law after it won that vote with a final outcome of 57-20. This follows the bill's vote in the House where it passed on Feb. 17 by a margin of 303 to 15. It is hoped that the new law will stop Canadian players from visiting offshore sports betting sites, casinos based within the United States, and illegal bookmakers.

The bill, which saw legislators in all four of Canada’s main parties demonstrate enthusiasm for its legalization, was the culmination of concerted efforts over the years to get similar bills passed. It stands out as being the third time that a would-be law of such a type has managed to propel its way through Parliament. However, all previous attempts faltered before becoming law.

Back in 2015, a similar piece of legislation managed to swiftly pass through the Canadian House of Commons, gaining support from all parties as it went. However, once it reached the Senate, it hung around with little notice being taken of it before dying out once the election was called that year. Similarly, the New Democrat MP Brian Masse had a second attempt at pushing such a bill through in 2016. However, at the time, a Liberal-majority placed a barrier up against his private member’s bill after uniting with the Conservatives.

It then came down to the Liberals themselves, who in November of 2020 introduced their own legislation for sports betting. However, this was subsequently dropped when it became apparent that Conservative MP Kevin Waugh had agreed to incorporate its protections for Canada’s horse racing industry into C-218.

Support from Sports Leagues for Bill C-218

News of the latest sports betting bill has clearly reached the ears of Canada’s sporting leagues, as it has received backing from some of the country’s best sporting divisions. The Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have both shown their support for the introduction of legal single-game sports betting. Not only that, but a close-knit equestrian community has also voiced its support for the bill. This community has become very wary of casinos and foreign-based gambling sites stepping foot on its turf.

It was Conservative Senator David Wells who sponsored the bill in the upper house. At the time, he made note of the fact that legalizing sports betting on single games within Canada would impact the black market. This, he said, was costing the country billions of dollars every year – money that could be redirected into the coffers of each province.

”Canadians are placing billions of dollars worth of bets annually through these (offshore) sites, that go entirely unregulated in Canada,” he said.

Single-Game Betting Has Been on the Horizon for a Long Time


Canada’s provincial governments have been desperate for single-event betting to become legal for a long time now. Senator Wells noted that they stand to reap billions of dollars in revenue considering that they each regulate their own gambling laws. That money, the senator noted, could be put to use to support addiction research, health care, education, and other priorities within their respective provinces.

And with news of the bill passing through the Senate, several of those provinces are readying themselves to grab hold and cling on with both hands. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation, for example, looks like it will be providing single-event wagering online pretty much straight away. That is expected to take place through, according to Travis Paterson, spokesman for the province’s Public Safety Ministry.

Regulatory tweaks at the provincial level are required before bettors can place single-event wagers though. However, no legislative amendments need be introduced, meaning that the path to enjoying single-event betting is made much easier.

The provinces of Canada have watched on as more than two dozen U.S. states have moved forward with legalizing single-game sports betting. This came about following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a federal ban back in 2018. Yet, potentially, some customers from locations close to the border with Canada have taken to stepping across state lines to be able to engage in legal sports betting.

Therefore, Waugh has stated that one of the main priorities of Bill C-218 is to level the playing field for Canada. This will see it be able to compete with huge foreign-based sites, such as Bodog and Bet365, which take in around $4 billion from their Canadian bettors every year, according to figures released by the Canadian Gaming Association.

While brick-and-mortar casinos may also benefit, British Columbia and Ontario have stated that single-game wagers will not be confined to the casino floor.

Canada to Benefit from Lost Tax Revenue

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The popular North American betting app, TheScore, which was created by a Canadian company, has pegged that the Canadian market for online gambling stands somewhere between US$4.3 billion and US$5.4 billion where revenue is concerned.

John Levy, chairman and CEO of TheScore, said in an interview that a large number of tax dollars are simply “floating up to heaven” when they could be put to use to enhance Canada’s various provinces.

It has been noted that gamblers within Canada will have much more of an interest in placing wagers on individual games, instead of simply engaging in parlay-style gambling, which requires them to wager on multiple games at once.

”When you think about people betting on sports…it basically is, ‘Well who do you like tonight? Are you gonna bet the Jays or you gonna bet the Yankees?,” said Levy. His TheScore app currently competes with various casinos and online sports betting brands throughout the United States, such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

20 People Still Voted Against the Bill

It wasn’t the case that Bill C-218 passed through completely unopposed though. There were still people who voted against it being introduced into law, preferring instead to look towards a pair of amendments, which failed to pass. These proposed alterations would have sent the bill back to the Commons, where they would have undergone further scrutiny. That could likely have seen it defeated especially since MPs began their summer break on Wednesday, June 23. Furthermore, a likely election looms, so the return of the same people in autumn remains questionable.

Senator Vern White, a member of the Canadian Senators Group that put forward an amendment last week calling for match fixing to be listed as a crime, had a lot to say on Bill C-218.

”This piece of legislation has many tentacles that could have been and should have been looked at more closely,” he said.

The federal ban that is in place across Canada was introduced as a way of curtailing match fixing. It remains much easier to scheme in this way when there is just a single game to manipulate, although the ban became highly ineffective when faced with a rise of foreign-based betting sites.

”There is a risk that players would be susceptible to being bribed to throw a match. And then they get drawn into a culture where they get blackmailed into keep doing it more,” said Senator Brent Cotter of the Independent Senators Group. That risk of manipulation lingers at the lower levels in sports like minor league hockey, for example. In those sports, players earn much less than their counterparts in the big leagues.

International Gaming Possible Today

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Fortunately for Canadians, they don't have to wait for political leaders in Ottawa and various provincial capitals to complete the process of making single-game sports wagers legal for bookmakers in Canada. This is because, as we have alluded to above, many offshore sportsbooks already permit residents of the country to make all kinds of wagers, including bets on single events.

There's nothing in the law that makes it a crime to frequent sportsbooks located outside the borders of Canada. The same is true regarding poker sites. In fact, we have prepared a guide to the best online poker sites for Canadians. You can read it to learn all about the various sites available and the advantages of signing up for each of them.