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Canada single-event sports betting bill given third reading in Senate


Canada’s single-event sports betting bill was given its third reading in the country’s Senate as it edges closer to a final vote. 

Bill C-218, introduced by Senator Kevin Waugh and backed by the country’s government, looks to amend Canada’s Criminal Code with regards to sports betting, repealing a section that currently prohibits wagering on single-sport events. Currently, betting on sports is only legal if the bet is on three or more events at once.

The bill passed the second reading back in February.

Senator David Wells moved to begin the third reading of the bill.

“$14 billion is being spent by Canadians on single-event sports betting,” he said. “These bets are being placed every day on offshore gambling sites. These black and gray market activities are happening outside of Canada’s legal framework and therefore are not subject to any regulations and taxes are not being collected on revenues.

“While we cannot dictate the regulatory practices of Canada’s provincial governments, what we can do is make this modification to one line of the Criminal Code, thereby empowering them to safely bring single-event sports betting within Canada – the regulations that would be enacted and bolstered around this activity are tangible and urgently needed.”

Concerns were expressed over the bill, however, namely relating to the prospect of match fixing.

Senator Peter Harder said: “While Canada is now regarded as a leader in the global anti-doping movement, we must now take a more proactive stance regarding match manipulation.

“These sorts of actions lead to a feeling of betrayal among sports supporters. If single-game betting is allowed without the issue of match manipulation being addressed, it also risks dissuading individuals who want to lay bets in the first place. Why bother if you can’t trust that the dice aren’t loaded?”

Provincial operators including the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) have previously shown its support for the bill, with the BCLC urging for it to be passed before summer recess. 

The day’s session ended before any votes could be passed, but not before some amendments to the bill were suggested, including an amendment to address these integrity concerns. Under this amendment, a person would be deemed to have committed an offence if they cheat at gambling or assist another person in doing so.

The amendment went on to clarify that if a person does cheat, it shouldn’t matter if they win or improved their chances of winning. Cheating would also be defined as any interference with the gambling process over any event to which gambling relates. and would be an indictable offence punishable by up to two years in prison.