Canada legalizes single-game sports betting, opening up billion-dollar market

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Federal law gives provinces the OK for more gambling on sports than now allowed

The federal government has made it legal to gamble on individual sporting events, bringing legitimacy to a murky industry on which Canadians already spend billions of dollars a year.

The news doesn't open up the floodgates, however: The federal law — which will be in force as of Aug. 27 — merely allows provinces to regulate sports betting as they see fit.

"Canadians will have the opportunity to participate in single-event sport betting in a regulated and safe environment, at the discretion of the provinces and territories," Attorney General David Lametti told a news conference in Niagara Falls, Ont., on Thursday.

According to the federal government, Canadians spend about $10 billion a year on single sporting events as part of betting conducted illegally in the black market by organized criminal networks. An additional $4 billion a year gets spent by Canadians in the so-called grey market, in offshore jurisdictions where such bets are legal. 

The new rules have the potential to bring that money back into Canada in a way that it can be monitored and taxed.

"Canadians have been betting on sports for a long time, but there's been a relic in the Criminal Code that has prevented betting on individual events," said St. Catharines, Ont., MP Chris Bittle, who attended the event.

"We have an opportunity to regulate, control it and take the money out of the hands of organized crime."

The law, known as Bill C-218, was a private member's bill brought forward by Kevin Waugh, Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood, but despite coming from the opposition, it won support in Parliament from all four main parties. 

It received royal assent at the end of June, making it official, but it wasn't until this week that the governing Liberals attached a date to its implementation: just over two weeks from now, on Aug. 27.

"Offshore gaming sites and sportsbooks operated by criminal organizations bring in $38 million of Canadian wagers every day," Waugh said in a statement on Wednesday, before Lametti's announcement. "Instead of quickly enacting a law that would redirect that money to Canadian jobs and businesses, Justin Trudeau is allowing billions of dollars a year to fall into the hands of big multinational companies and criminals."

Widely expected move

Six provinces currently allow so-called parlay betting through provincial agencies, where bettors must bet on the outcome of at least three separate sporting events and correctly predict the outcome of all three for the bet to pay off.

Betting on a single event — the winner of the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, for example — was previously impossible to do through any services regulated in Canada.

That's why opening up the market to individual-game bets is seen as the next step to more widespread adoption of the growing sports-betting market.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-sports-betting-1.6138865