Betting on a single sports game is currently illegal under the
Criminal Code of Canada.1 While the Criminal
Code prohibits single-game sports betting, it creates
exceptions for a parlay-style system.2 Parlay-style betting
requires an individual to bet on two or more events and accounts
for approximately $500 million in legal provincial wagers.3 However, Canadians are betting close to
$14 billion a year through offshore websites and illegal bookmaking
operations.4 Under a new bill recently introduced by
Justice Minister David Lametti, the $14 billion that Canadians
gamble offshore could soon be legalized in Canada.
Bill C-13 (the “Bill”)5, which was introduced
last November, would remove the prohibition on single-game sports
betting in Canada and allow the provinces to regulate the
industry.6 The Bill adopts suggestions forwarded in
a private members’ bill7 introduced earlier this
year and is expected to draw support across bipartisan lines.8 The Bill comes at a time when Canada
faces increased competition from America after the US Supreme Court
paved the way for legalized sports betting in the States.9
Proponents for legalizing single-game sports betting in Canada
point to the revenue potential gambling could funnel into the
economy, bringing both jobs and economic benefits.10 The
Canadian Gaming Association stated allowing single-game sports
betting would serve as an economic stimulus, create hundreds of
employment opportunities, and generate a significant new tax
revenue stream for cities across Canada.11 Others
claim removing prohibitions against single-game sports betting in
Canada could have huge market impacts. In Ontario alone, one
Canadian-based digital sports media company estimates $1.5-2.1
billion in annual gross gaming revenue.12
Those opposed to the legislation argue sporting events could
fall prey to match fixing, undermining the integrity of
professional sports. Declan Hill, an associate professor of
investigations at the University of New Haven, argued in the Globe
and Mail that the Bill is flawed. He contends Canada should also
create a federal law targeting match fixing before legalizing
single-game sports betting.13 The Canadian Centre for
Ethics in Sport notes similar match fixing concerns.14 Further, legalizing single-game sports
betting could contribute to growing addiction problems. Declan
highlights easier access to sports betting could “fuel
addiction in the demographic that is not always known for making
sensible choices – men aged 14 to 35.”15 With the
added difficulty in monitoring underage betting, addiction problems
could become more acute.
Others opposed to the legislation claim single-game sports
betting creates an arena to bankrupt customers and drain money from
the economy. Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, in debating the mirroring
private members’ bill, noted casinos take four dollars out of
the local economy for every dollar that goes into it.16 Vaughan believes casinos are now looking
to single-event sports betting as a way to supplement their income
after bankrupting their previous clientele.
With the recent growth in the US gambling industry and Canadians
appetite for gambling, the latest attempt to legalize single-game
sports betting in Canada may prove successful. With the Bill
garnering support from several multi-national sport organizations,
the legislative change could come at a particularly poignant time
when Canada’s economy needs a boost from the COVID-19
pandemic.17 Parliament is expected to debate the
Bill in early 2021.
1. Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c
C-46 s 207(4)(b).
3. Canadian Gaming Association,
“Canadian Gaming Association Urges Quick Action on Legislation
for Sports Betting” (3 November 2020), online: Canadian
Gaming Association (https://mailchi.mp/1f569daf0683/cga-urges-quick-action-on-legislation-for-sports-betting)
5. “Bill C-13, An Act to amend
the Criminal Code (single event sport betting), 2nd Sess, 43rd
Parl, 2020 (first reading 26 November 2020).
6. Justice Minister David Lametti
emphasized the bill’s objective was to move single-game betting
into a legal, regulated environment. See Department of Justice,
Backgrounder: Proposed changes to Canada’s Criminal Code
relating to sports betting (November 26 2020).
7. Bill C-218, An Act to amend the
Criminal Code (sports betting), 1st Sess, 43rd Parl, 2020
(second reading 28 February 2020).
8. Matt Rybaltowski, “Canadian Bill
on Single-Game Sports Betting Tabled Until After Christmas”
(11 December 2020), online: Sports Handle (https://sportshandle.com/canada-bill-tabled-121120/).
9. Murphy v National Collegiate
Athletic Association Christie vs NCAA, 138 S Ct 1461
10. “Bill C-218, An Act to amend
the Criminal Code (sports betting)” 2nd reading, House of
Commons Debates, 43-2, No 025 (3 November 2020) at 1720 &
1725 (Mr. Kevin Waugh).
11. CGA, supra note
12. Brad Allen, “Finding the
Biggest Winners from Expanded Canada Sports Betting” (2
December 2020), online: Legal Sports Report (www.legalsportsreport.com/46185/canada-sports-betting-winners/).
13. Declan Hill, “Expanding Sports
Betting Without Banning Match-Fixing is a Recipe for Trouble”
(11 December 2020), online: Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-expanding-sports-betting-without-banning-match-fixing-is-a-recipe-for/).
14. McClaren Global Sport Solutions
& Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, “Match Manipulation
and Gambling: A Growing Threat to Canadian Sport Integrity”
(24 & 25 April 2019), online (pdf): (https://cces.ca/sites/default/files/content/docs/pdf/cces-mgss-matchman-whitepaper-execsum-e-web.pdf).
15. Hill, supra note 13.
16. “Bill C-218, An Act to amend
the Criminal Code (sports betting)” 2nd reading, House of
Commons Debates, 43-2, No 025 (3 November 2020) at 1730 (Mr.
17. National Baseball Association et al,
Joint Statement, “Joint Statement From the Commissioners of
the National Baseball Association, National Hockey League, Major
Baseball League, Major League Soccer and Canadian Football
League” (8 June 2020), online (pdf): (http://canadiangaming.ca/wp-content/uploads/Leagues-Joint-Statement.pdf).
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