Bill C-218, The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act,first introduced by Kevin Waugh, MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood in February 2020 as a Private Member’s Bill, passed the House of Commons with all-party support on a recorded vote of 303-15 at Second Reading one year later.
The House of Commons Justice Committee heard from 32 witnesses and received 29 briefs, all in support of the Bill, including the horse racing industry which asked for and received greater protection. In that regard Bill C-218 became identical to the government’s own Bill, C-13, which was pulled to allow C-218 to go forward.
Bill C-218 reached the Senate in June. Thanks to the efforts of the Bill’s sponsor, Senator David Wells, as well as the Bill’s critic, Senator Brent Cotter, C-218 passed without amendment on Third Reading on June 22, 2021.
Amending the Criminal Code to allow single-event sports betting will provide:
- Greater regulatory oversight and cutting off illegal wagering activities
- Stronger consumer protection
- Economic opportunities for communities
Canada has had legal sports betting for decades but only parlay bets were allowed, which is a bet on the outcome of two or more events. This is not what Canadians had in mind for Super Bowl or Stanley Cup bets, for example, as evidenced by their enthusiasm for using offshore betting apps that provided them with the sports betting experience they wanted.
Cutting Off Illegal Wagering Opportunities
It’s estimated Canadians are spending $10 billion dollars annually through illegal sports betting operations control by organized crime.
In December 2019, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) broke up a Hells Angels-controlled illegal gambling ring in southwestern Ontario that earned $131 million over a five-year period.
Based on the average profit margin of 5 – 6% for a sportsbook operation, this single organized crime operation would have accepted close to $2.5 billion dollars in illegal wagers over the five-year period.
The OPP allege that Hells Angels members controlled the gambling ring and its five sports betting websites:
Ultimate Sports Book, Titan Sports Book, PlaytoWin Sports Book, Privada Sports Book, and Players Sports Book.
The recently released “Public Report on Organized Crime in Canada” by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada highlights the use of illegal gaming operations by organized crime groups as a “high-profit/low-risk market”.
“ Outlaw Motorcycle Groups collaborate with other Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) in the importation of cocaine and other illicit drugs, and have networks stretching across Canada that facilitate their well-established distribution lines. They are criminally associated to groups that form the Traditional Organized Crime network and are involved with Organized Crime Groups involved in illegal online gaming, which is seen as a high- profit/low-risk market.”
Page 8- Public Report on Organized Crime in Canada from Criminal Intelligence Service Canada December 2019
The report went on to remark that the organized crime groups use the illegal gaming operations to fund other forms of criminality.
“ Gaming networks generate millions of dollars of revenue each year, and OCGs involved in this market use these illicit funds to finance other forms of criminality, such as drug importing and trafficking.”
Page 12- Public Report on Organized Crime in Canada from Criminal Intelligence Service Canada December 2019
Supporting Jobs in Communities Across Canada
Canada’s gaming industry supports over 182,000 jobs across Canada with almost $12 billion in annual labour income, while purchasing over $14.5 billion in goods and services each year. There are currently 115 casino- style gaming facilities across Canada located in the ridings of 100 MP’s.
A legal, regulated sports wagering marketplace will drive additional revenue through increased food and beverage sales, gaming activity, and sports wag ering revenue while supporting jobs in Canada’s legal and regulated gaming industry.
Legal Single-Event Sports Betting in US Border States
The majority of the states directly touching the Canadian border have live and approved sports betting, or have changes coming or under consideration for sports betting.
For border communities, opening a sports book will serve as an economic stimulus, create hundreds of employment opportunities, and generate a significant new tax revenue stream for the city. There is a real and rising threat to our industry from US border states and we can’t afford to be left behind.
The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act is about providing Canadians who enjoy sports wagering a safe and regulated sports betting market with greater consumer protection and ensuring access to Canada’s world leading responsible gaming programs.
Every province has enacted responsible gaming programs, from training frontline staff to robust player education, to standards for advertising. Canada is a world leader in responsible gaming programming and invests more funds each year than any other jurisdiction in the world.
Canadian provincial lottery corporations and gaming operators have implemented some of the most comprehensive programs that are decades ahead of jurisdiction like the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.
British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s “Games Sense” responsible gaming education and awareness program is currently being used by three other Canadian provinces, three U.S. states, and MGM Resorts International utilizes the program in all of its U.S. gaming properties.
Strong Support for a Safe and Legal Option
Over past eight years the request to amend the Criminal Code to permit a legal and regulated sports betting regime has earned widespread support from provincial governments, business, communities, labour and sports organizations.
Throughout this time, these organizations have all supported stronger regulatory oversight of sports wagering in Canada and greater consumer protections measures at one point or another:
- National Hockey League (NHL)
- Canadian Football League (CFL)
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- Canadian Premier League (CPL)
- Major League Baseball (MLB)
- Province of Alberta
- Alberta Liquor Gaming and Cannabis
- Province of Ontario
- Regional Municipality of Niagara
- Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority
- City of Niagara Falls
- City of Winsor
- Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Atlantic Lottery Corporation
- Province of Nova Scotia
- Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation
- Canadian Labour Congress
- New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation
- Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport
- International Olympic Committee
- Alberta Charitable Casino Operators Association
- Canadian Gaming Association
- Commercial Gaming Association of Ontario