Canada’s parliament has passed the second reading of Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, with 303 votes in favor and 15 against.
Bill C-218 will now enter into the last phase of hearings with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights before moving to the senate and then to Governor-General for Royal Assent.
The Bill was re-introduced to parliament in November, sponsored by Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, and would repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of Canada’s Criminal Code, which states that sports betting is only legal if players bet simultaneously on at least three games or more.
During the reading, several parliamentarians expressed their support for the bill based on the positive impact it would have for their communities.
Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Employment, Irek Kusmierczyk, said the passage of the Bill would mean greater job security and increased employment in his community of Windsor-Tecumseh.
Sébastien Lemire, bloc MP for Abitibi—Témiscamingue in Quebec, said that approval of the Bill would improve transparency, better regulate sports betting and provide the government with additional resources to help vulnerable people struggling with addiction.
He described the Bill as “the least we can do” to take meaningful action towards reducing the psychological distress caused by compulsive gambling.
Kevin Waugh added that: “By passing Bill C-218, we can ensure that going forward, profits from sports wagering are put back into our communities, into health care, education, problem gambling programs, youth sports and other important services rather than the pockets of offshore companies or even criminals.”
Several stakeholders including gaming companies in Canada have since come out to voice their support for the Bill.
Quentin Martin, chief executive of esports betting operator Luckbox, said: “This overwhelming result shows there is cross-party support for an amendment to what is an outdated law and very welcome for organisations like ours which offer safe, responsible and enjoyable wagering on events,”
“This outcome is another significant step towards being able to offer safer waging to the millions of sports and esports fans in Canada. Legalization, regulation and working with responsible operators is, in our view, the best means to keep fans safe and offer them the best possible experience.”
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) is urging parliament to work collaboratively and help take the Bill over the finish line.
“We’re calling on all Members of Parliament to work together collaboratively to legalize single-event betting for the benefit of our players and provinces,” said Stewart Groumoutis, BCLC’s director of eGaming.
“Our players want single-event sports betting, and we are ready to provide this enhanced offering to them in a safe and responsible manner while also generating additional revenue for the Province of B.C.”
John Levy, chief executive of digital media company theScore, said: “Today’s development in the House of Commons, focusing on the legalization of single event sports betting in Canada, is a significant step forward in the process to amend an outdated law.”
“We expect that the legalization of single event sports betting will facilitate the introduction by provinces and territories of a much-needed modernized sports betting framework in their respective jurisdictions that can include important consumer protections and the ability to generate new revenue streams for provincial and territorial governments.”
The company said it estimates a market potential for online gaming in Canada of between US$3.8 billion and US$5.4 billion in annual gross gaming revenue (GGR), based on historical data extrapolated from legal online gaming markets in the U.S. and globally.