On the evening of September 21st the dreams of Canadian sports betting enthusiasts were dashed, as federal lawmakers rejected a bill which would’ve legalized single-game wagering.
Officially known as C-221, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act was voted down in the House of Commons by a narrow 156 to 133 margin.
Had the bill been passed, C-221 would have then been transferred to the House Committee on Justice and Human Rights for final review.
Essentially a carbon copy of C-290, a bill introduced in 2011 which ultimately stalled in Canada’s Senate last year, C-221 was introduced by Member of Parliament (MP) Brian Masse, who represents the Ontario district of Windsor West as a part of the left-leaning New Democratic Party.
The legislative objective of C-221 was amending Canada’s federal criminal code to allow provinces to offer sports wagering services on single games, races, or fights. Currently, Canadians are able to wager on sports through state-operated lottery style betting services, but only through parlay bets that rely on several game or event outcomes simultaneously.
This “Sports Select” service is known as “Pari Sportif” in the province of Quebec, and Pro Line in Ontario. Bettors must choose between two and six games from a particular daily sports schedule, and the only way to win is when all games selected are chosen correctly. Fixed odds, point spread, and over/under bets are also available under the parlay format.
Critics contend that the odds installed by government bookmakers are not aligned with market standards, while the “vigorish” charged by the house routinely exceeds industry norms. These concerns, combined with the increased difficulty and volatility of parlay betting, have forced millions of Canadians to rely on underground bookies or offshore online sports betting sites to place the preferred single-game wagers.
Masse consistently linked the lack of single-game sports betting options to organized crime, as does the American Gaming Association (AGA) during its own campaign to legalize sports betting in the U.S.
In a statement issued on the night C-221 was defeated, Masse railed against what he viewed as the Liberal Party’s failure to protect Canadian consumers:
“Today, small mindedness won over good governance. By defeating this legislation the Liberal Government just endorsed an unacceptable reality in the gaming sector in Canada.
They are well aware of the massive revenue stream sports wagering is providing organized crime to fund human trafficking, the illegal drug and weapons trade, money laundering and tax evasion.”
Members of Canada’s Liberal Party raised concerns over single-game sports betting impacting the integrity of the country’s professional sports leagues. Back in 2012, all four of the major North American leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) wrote letters stating their opposition to C-290.
In the case of C-221, both the NBA and NHL reversed their previous stance, but Liberal Party MPs were less willing to compromise on the issue of sporting integrity.
Speaking with reporters following the vote, Masse declared single-game sports betting legislation in Canada all but dead, leaving little hope that a similar bill might be brought forward in the future:
“It’s done. There’s no way else it can be revisited in terms of the language that we have for the Criminal Code … I can’t imagine another way.”