A years-long push to legalize single-game sports betting, currently illegal under the Criminal Code, took a step closer to its goal this week.
A private member’s bill, sponsored by Con- Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh, passed through its second reading in the House of Commons Wednesday. In a rare display of cross-partisan approval, the bill passed 303-15.
Speaking to Global News this weekend, Waugh said he believes the vote will be a valuable one for the sports industry in Saskatchewan and beyond.
“We believe, through the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), that it’s a $14 billion dollar industry that Canadian provinces and Canadians are not getting any benefit from,” Waugh said.
“This will give the provinces, if it is passed, the much-needed money to give back to sports, culture, recreation and hopefully addictions programming, which I am certainly championing along with this bill.”
Waugh referenced 2019 CGA estimates that Canadians wager $4 billion on sports per year through offshore organizations, and $10 billion a year through illegal bookmaking operations in Canada.
“We don’t get any taxes through organized crime. We don’t get any taxes through organizations like Bodog and Bet365 – the offshore sites,” Waugh said.
The CGA also estimated that Canadians only spend $500 million per year on legal provincial sports betting.
Right now, the only way Canadians can legally place a wager on a sports event is through parlay betting, which requires multiple outcomes to be picked and combined into a single bet.
Last February, Waugh introduced Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, to amend the Criminal Code.
Following the proroguing of parliament last summer, discussion on the bill resumed in November, at the end of which Waugh says the federal government approached him about turning his private member’s bill into a government bill: C-13.
“There were some differences between my bill and the government bill, so I kept my bill just in case things did not proceed.”
Then, Waugh says an opportunity arose to debate C-218 earlier this month, leading to last Wednesday’s vote.
The bill is set to be reviewed by the House of Commons’ Justice and Human Rights Committee this week. C-13 has since been pulled.
Waugh believes the bill can be reviewed, given its third reading, and pass through the Senate by the end of May — about the time the beleaguered CFL typically kicks off their season.
Attempts have been made to amend sports betting rules under the Criminal Code in the past.
In 2012 an NDP-led bill passed through the House but stalled out in the Senate. Waugh says that at the time, professional sports leagues were resistant to the idea.
“There was a lot of opposition from the leagues. In 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays and (President) Paul Beeston did a damaging report in front of the Senate saying they did not favour regulated sports betting,” Waugh said.