Single-Event Sports Betting In Canada? You Better Believe It!

Posted By Derek Helling on June 22, 2021

If you weren’t a Belieber that the landscape of Canadian legal sports betting would change this year, your Cana-doubts have just been proven incorrect. Parliament passed a piece of legislation ending the country’s ban on single-event wagering through to final enactment on Tuesday. That means sports betting in Canada should be coming soon.

Much like how individual jurisdictions in the United States of America have worked on regulating legal wagering after the fall of PASPA in 2018, Canada’s provincial and territorial governments will take it from here. As Alanis Morrisette sang, it’s Closer Than You Might Believe.

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Massive changes to Canadian legal sports betting on their way

Essentially, what’s on the horizon is tantamount to the difference between naked fries and poutine. Before Parliament gave final approval to C-218 Tuesday, the only legal way to bet on sports in Canada (outside tribal lands) was to parlay multiple events together.

That federal prohibition is now a thing of the past. Like all other forms of gaming in the country, individual provinces and territories will regulate single-event wagering within their own borders. Just like in the US, bettors should expect some of those governments to move more quickly than others.

The COO of Ontario’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission, David Phillips, stated his province would have sportsbooks live “by the end of 2021.” Stewart Groumotis of the British Columbia Lottery Association stated the province would move on the issue “almost immediately.”

That’s good news, as those are two of the top four most populous provinces in the nation. The other two are Alberta and Quebec. Appropriately, those four provinces are also home to the majority of Canada’s professional sports teams.

As far as which gambling companies might flow into those provinces like maple syrup, there are some favorites. There are still many questions about what the final product will look like, though.

Which sportsbooks could be first-movers in new markets?

theScore, which makes its headquarters in Toronto, operates an online sportsbook in multiple US jurisdictions. Given its prominence in Canadian sports media, expect it to apply for licenses as available. Another company with an obvious in-road into at least Ontario is Caesars.

Caesars operates a casino under its own branding in Windsor. BetMGM Sportsbook recently got out ahead of this as well. It has a media partnership with The Hockey News and recently added Wayne Gretzky to its line of spokespersons. After the Parliamentary vote on Tuesday, BetMGM released a statement saying it welcomes “the opportunity to collaborate with provincial governments…”

Earlier this month, PointsBet Sportsbook announced a hire directly aimed at growing its business in Canada. DraftKings Sportsbook also seems to be in as well. Its sports betting cross-promotional deal with the NFL includes Canada. According to a statement released Tuesday, DraftKings “looks forward to working closely with officials in each province…”

Certainly, more brands could mount up. What we don’t know is whether provincial governments will allow for online sportsbook licenses untethered to any brick-and-mortar component within their borders. That’s just one of many questions.

Will sportsbooks have to be closer to the heart?

If existing physical gambling enterprises are the heart of the gambling industry in these provinces, then sports betting will likely run through them. For example, it looks like British Columbia could simply expand the offerings currently available on the lottery’s PlayNow website. Thus, BC residents might be dealing with a provincial monopoly.

Another component is tribal casinos near Canadian cities. An amendment to C-218 that explicitly would have required their inclusion failed Monday. Now, like all other matters, that’s up to each regulatory body. The same goes for racetracks in provinces/territories.

For Canadian sports fans, a looming question might also be whether their favorite teams will get in on offering betting themselves. Again, C-218 is silent on that issue. Each provincial/territorial government will decide that for itself.

The lobbying power of casinos and those sports teams could have a strong effect on regulations in Ontario and Quebec. Tuesday’s news means it’s time for them to take some advice from Drake: “a chance is like a picture, it’d be nice if you just take it.”

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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