Debate on Canadian Sports Betting Bill Likely to Resume Monday

By | June 21, 2021

The Canadian Senate is expected to resume debate Monday on C-218, the bill to legalize single-game sports betting in the country, and members will likely have to decide on an amendment supporters say could derail the bill’s chances of passage.

Canadian sports betting
Canadian Sen. David Wells speaks Thursday during a Senate session in Ottawa on behalf of C-218, a bill that would legalize single-game sports betting in the country. The debate is set to resume Monday on the bill. (Image: Senate of Canada)

Monday also starts the final week of the Senate’s session before it adjourns for the summer. There’s been speculation that the Canadian government will look to dissolve Parliament before it reconvenes in September and call for new elections in the fall.

The House of Commons, where the bill originated, is set to adjourn on Wednesday. If the Senate were to amend the bill, sponsored by MP Kevin Waugh (Conservative-Saskatoon-Grasswood), there likely would not be enough time to reconcile the bill before the break.

If C-218 does not pass and Parliament is dissolved, the bill would have to start anew when the next Parliament convenes. It also means, with an exception detailed below, parlay betting would remain the only legal form of sports betting in Canada.

The Senate session Monday is scheduled to start at 2 pm ET.

One Amendment Voted Down

Nearly two weeks after the Senate Banking, Trade, and Commerce Committee passed the bill, the third and final reading before the full body finally started on Thursday.

Three hours of debate took place that afternoon and evening, with members voting down an amendment – 24-38, with 10 abstentions – that would have inserted language making match-fixing schemes illegal in Canada. Opponents of the amendment said that the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that match-fixing is covered under the country’s fraud laws.

The amendment that Senators will likely have to vote on Monday would be one Sen. Mary Jane McCallum (Independent Senators Group-Manitoba) offered toward the end of the debate Thursday evening. She’s seeking to include language that would include indigenous tribes to participate in offering single-game sports betting.

It’s an issue the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has raised as the bill has moved along. The Kahnawake, one of Canada’s First Nations groups, has operated a single-game sports betting app for years. However, Kahnawake’s leaders fear provinces would exclude their app, which is currently available in Canada.

McCallum said the Kahnawake have operated under suspicions from others that its app is illegal.

Kahnawake takes no issue with the code being amended to allow for this new gaming activity,” she said. “Kahnawake does, however, take issue with Parliament’s ongoing failure to amend the code to reflect and accommodate the Aboriginal right held by Indigenous communities.”

At the Banking Committee hearing earlier this month, Senators said an amendment would likely derail the bill’s chances of passing in a timely manner.

On Thursday, Sen. David Wells (Conservative-Newfoundland and Labrador) indicated that what companies or groups would be allowed to operate legal single-game sports betting would be up to the individual provinces.

“I don’t want this to be overcomplicated in any way,” he said. “This is a bill that allows single-event sports betting. Any of the structures around regulatory platforms and the operation of gaming in a province is only associated with this bill in a tertiary way but not the focus of this bill.”

Canadian Sports Betting Market Breakdown

The single-game sports betting bill enjoys broad-based support from the major professional sporting leagues that operate in Canada as well as from the Canadian Gaming Association.

With a national population of about 37.6 million, roughly equivalent to California, legalizing sports betting would open up several new markets for sportsbooks currently operating in the US.

Score Media and Gaming, a Toronto-based company that operates a popular Canadian sports news app and sportsbooks in four US states, has estimated Canada’s online sports betting market could generate up to US$5.4 billion in gross gaming revenue.

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