Betting on single games of football, hockey and other sports is about to become legal in Canada.
The Senate has approved Bill C-218, a private member’s bill that amends Criminal Code provisions around gambling on single sports games — currently illegal except for horse racing — in a bid to win back customers from offshore sites, U.S. casinos and illegal bookmakers.
The upper chamber approved the bill Tuesday by a vote of 57-20. It now awaits royal assent to become law.
Conservative MP Kevin Waugh’s bill garnered renewed enthusiasm from legislators in all four main parties, and marks the third time a would-be law with the same goal has blazed a trail through Parliament — but never this far.
Similar legislation zipped through the House of Commons with all-party support nearly a decade ago but foundered in the Senate and died when an election was called in 2015.
A second attempt by New Democrat MP Brian Masse also failed after the then-Liberal majority voted down his private member’s bill in concert with Conservatives in 2016.
The Liberals then rolled the dice last November with their own legislation, which they subsequently dropped when Waugh agreed to incorporate its protections for the horse-racing industry into his bill.
The bill passed the House of Commons with multi-party support in February.
The legislation has been embraced by the Canadian Football League, National Hockey League and other professional sports. It has also garnered tentative support from a tight-knit equestrian community that remains wary of casinos and foreign gambling sites encroaching on its turf.
Conservative Sen. David Wells, who sponsored the bill in the upper house, predicted that legally allowing Las Vegas-style betting on single games would eat into the multibillion-dollar black market and redirect that revenue into provincial government coffers.
Currently, he told the Senate during final debate last week, “Canadians are placing billions of dollars worth of bets annually through these (offshore) sites, that go entirely unregulated in Canada.”
Provincial governments, which regulate gambling in Canada, have been clamouring for single-event betting to be legalized, Wells added, arguing that they stand to reap billions in revenue that could be used to support addiction research, health care, education and other priorities.
—The Canadian Press