People make bets in the sports book at the South Point hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Nevada. (John Locher/AP)

People make bets in the sports book at the South Point hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Nevada. (John Locher/AP)

Canada’s proposed sports betting law could generate taxes, protect consumers: experts

A private member’s bill passed by the House of Commons on Thursday would legalize putting money on a single sports game

Canadians should soon be able to place a wager on the outcome of an NHL game thanks to what experts say is an overdue change to the country’s laws on sports betting.

A private member’s bill passed by the House of Commons on Thursday would legalize putting money on a single sports game. Currently, people skirt the law by using offshore betting services to place wagers.

Modernizing the legislation is “long overdue,” said Tom Mayenknecht, a Vancouver-based sports marketing expert.

“It’s impossible in this era to police people betting offshore,” he said. “So this way, it keeps more of the money in Canada, both in terms of where it’s being spent and then secondly, the investment of a share of the proceeds back in the community.”

Canada’s current sports betting legislation is “ancient,” and loosening the rules would be similar to changes the federal government made around cannabis in 2019, said Michael Naraine, an assistant professor of sports management at Brock University.

“Obviously for a very long time, everyone was like `cannabis is bad.’ But people were users of cannabis. It wasn’t that it was just magically removed from the country. People were smoking and using cannabis,” he said.

The federal government changed the laws around cannabis not only to generate tax revenue, but to educate the public on responsible use, too, Naraine said.

“Rather than punishing the consumer who’s already doing it, embrace the activity but do so in a way that you can provide them choice but also, more importantly, education.”

How, exactly, new-look sports betting would work in Canada remains to be seen. If passed by the Senate, Bill C-218 would give the provinces and territories full jurisdiction over single-event betting.

Each province and territory would likely do things slightly differently, said Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association.

Some may run their own betting services while others will dole out licenses to sportsbook companies like FanDuel or DraftKings. A province could also opt for a hybrid model.

“This allows the regulated industry in Canada to catch up and play on a level playing field,” Burns said.

Currently, Canadians can only place parlay bets that cover multiple games. But that isn’t appealing to many want-to-be bettors, who can turn to about 2,000 offshore websites, many of which are not well regulated, said Burns.

“We get calls to our offices from people who have trouble getting their money out of sites,” he said.

Each year, Canadians are betting about $4 billion through offshore sports books and another $10 billion through operations in Canada run by organized crime, Burns added.

The idea behind parlay betting was that it would help prevent corruption and collusion in professional sports, said Naraine.

“Now sports integrity is a lot more enshrined. We have a lot more confidence in sports integrity,” he said. “We’ve got the numbers, we’ve got the data, we’ve got cameras everywhere. It’s so difficult to be corrupt in sport now.”

The NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and CFL all signed on to a joint letter last June supporting the changes to legislation.

Mayenknecht said the leagues recognized that single-event sports betting could be a “massive” new source of revenue.

The biggest chunk of cash will come from commissions or licensing fees on the actual wagers, Mayenknecht said, but the leagues will also be looking at future opportunities.

He sees a day in the not-so-distant future when fans will be able to walk up to a window outside an arena or a kiosk on the concourse to place a bet on the outcome of a game. He noted that the Phoenix Suns announced earlier this year that they’re working with FanDuel to create a “betting lounge” in their home arena.

Leagues also know the new legislation will open opportunities for new sponsorships, Naraine said. After exhausting the traditional avenues like official coffee and official vehicle, teams are looking to branch out into new areas like computer technology and ride sharing, he said.

“These are categories that didn’t exist 10 years ago. And one of those categories is also a sports gaming operator,” he said.

One industry knows the impact of Bill C-218 won’t be entirely positive. The new legislation will hurt the horse racing industry, said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment.

“There’s no question in my mind, even now, that sports betting is going to cannibalize our mutual wagering dollar in Canada,” he said. “As you let people wager on sports, (the horse racing industry) is going to lose a lot of those customers to sports betting. There’s only so many sports betting dollars available.”

Woodbine pushed for an amendment that prohibits fixed odds wagering on horse racing, and Lawson said the ensuing change will help limit the impact to his industry.

“I think (the legislation) is a good thing for the country,” he said. “It’s going to generate revenue and largely, but not completely, replace a grey market that does exist.”

Lawson said Woodbine has already been approached by companies looking to create partnerships as Canada’s sports betting landscape shifts. They like that Woodbine already has infrastructure in place, he said, from anti-money laundering systems to responsible gaming programs to a mobile app.

The legal changes are unlikely to completely shutter offshore betting websites, Lawson said.

“What it will do is it will bring most of the major players into Canada, operating legally, regulated and paying taxes,” he said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

A Canadian Pacific train derailed near Nelson on Tuesday evening. Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
Canadian Pacific freight train derails near Nelson

There were no injuries or spills related to the incident

Brenda Ware. (RCMP)
Murder charge laid against man in Kootenay National Park homicide

Philip Toner was located in Lake Country on May 11

The Salmo Public Library’s director Taylor Caron with her award. Photo: Submitted
Salmo Public Library director wins provincial award

Taylor Caron has been recognized by her peers for innovation and advocacy

We, the olds, talk about the kids this week.
VIDEO: Wednesday Roundup

Tyler Harper and Bill Metcalfe talk about some amazing kids this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Most Read