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Major leagues throw weight behind Canadian betting push


A coalition of major North American sports leagues have publicly expressed their support for single-event sports betting in Canada.

In a joint statement published by the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), the National Basketball Association (NBA); National Hockey League (NHL); Major League Soccer (MLS); Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Canadian Football League (CFL) hailed efforts to allow legal betting. 

“Sports betting gives fans another exciting way to engage with the sports they love,” the leagues said. “Because a legal and regulated sports betting market in Canada would be beneficial to sports and their fans, we urge prompt action to make this a reality. 

“Sports betting already happens illegally in Canada; creating a legal framework would shift consumers from illicit, unregulated markets to a legal and safe marketplace. Regulating single-game betting would allow for strong consumer protections as well as safeguards to further protect the integrity of sports.”

The letter is signed by NBA commissioner Adam Silver; the NHL’s Gary Bettman; Don Garber of MLS; MLB’s Rob Manfred and Randy Ambrosie of the CFL.

The CGA added that single event betting would create additional revenue for the state and sports as Canada recovers from the effects of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Canada’s Criminal Code, under paragraph 207(4)(b), currently only permits bets on at least three games or more, meaning a bet on a single match or event is illegal. According to Conservative Member of Parliament Kevin Waugh and the CGA, an estimated $14bn is therefore wagered illegally in the country each year. 

Waugh is leading to the push to change this with C-218, also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, which had its first reading in the House of Commons in February this year. 

The bill looks to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to permit single-event betting, and represents the third attempt involving New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse to change Canada’s sports betting laws. 

Masse, who seconded the introduction of Waugh’s bill, previously filed similar legislation himself in two different sittings of parliament.

Further changes to Canada’s gambling legislation are incoming, though on a provincial level. Ontario is preparing to implement a new regulatory framework to open up the province to private operators for the first time, something Ron Segev of Segev LLP examined in detail for iGB North America earlier this week.