Canadian Sports Betting Bill Passes House, Heads To Senate Next

Posted By Robyn McNeil on April 23, 2021

With the passing of Bill C-218, Canadian single-event sports betting is closer to becoming a reality. 

The bill, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Sports Betting), passed on division just before the House adjourned Thursday. It heads to the Senate next.

Waugh sports betting bill gets through

On Wednesday, the bill’s sponsor, Conservative Member Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon-Grasswood), sent a plea to the Government asking for support. In his letter, Waugh highlights key reasons for passing the bill; curtailing crime, consumer protection, and competition from US markets. 

He also notes the widespread support for the bill has received.

“Since I introduced this bill, I have received support from industry groups, provincial and municipal governments, community organizations, and sports associations,” wrote Waugh. “Support for the legislation has only grown stronger as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled relevant industries.”

In a statement posted on his website, Waugh signalled his pleasure at today’s outcome.

“I am pleased that today, Bill C-218 passed the House of Commons with the support of Members of Parliament from all parties,” said Waugh. 

“The Justice Committee’s study on this bill highlighted the fact that legalizing single-event sports betting will create great economic opportunities for Canadian workers, businesses, and employees. It will also ensure that provincial governments have access to the tools necessary to properly regulate sports betting and implement consumer protection and problem gambling programs to protect Canadians.”

How we got here on Canadian sports betting

The push to legalize sports betting in Canada has been in play for close to a decade. But Bill C-218 is the closest we’ve come since 2012, when Bill C-290 passed unanimously through the House of Commons, only to die in the senate in 2015.

Shortly after, in 2016,  the NDP’s Brian Masse (Windsor West) introduced Bill C-221.  That bill, however, met with strong opposition from both the Conservatives and the governing Liberal party.

Seemingly, the Liberals had a recent change of heart. Not only did Bill C-218 pass second reading with a vote of 303-15, but Finance Minister David Lametti tabled a bill of his own, Bill C-13. 

The only difference between Lametti’s bill and C-218 was the addition of a clause protecting the Canadian horse racing industry from sportsbooks offering wagers on race events.

With the passing of C-218 at second reading in February, the Government abandoned C-13 due to a rarely used rule prohibiting the same question from being decided twice during the same parliamentary session. However, an amendment added to C-218 while in front of the Justice Committee offers the racing industry the same protection, bringing the bill in line with the Government’s attempt. 

What happens next for sports betting in Canada?

The passage of Bill C-218 is far from guaranteed. But, a trifecta of criminality, consumer risk, and US competition make its passing likely. Especially with the pandemic in the backdrop.

During the first wave, most of Canada’s 114 casinos and 200 permanent bingo halls and community gaming centres abruptly closed. This closure put 185,000 industry jobs at risk. The closure also took nearly $1 billion in salaries and $1.2 billion in goods and services out of the economy. And that $2.2 billion doesn’t include the more than $765 million that flows to governments and charities.  

It’s little surprise the financial crunch led detractors to reconsider their opposition. Estimates say Canadians spend approximately $14 billion on sports wagering each year, although legal sports betting in Canada only nets about $500 million through provincial lotteries. 

With the bill now heading to the Senate, Canadians are one step closer to a regulated sports betting industry. And reaping the benefits.

“Given the extraordinary amount of support that this bill received from all parties in the House of Commons,” says Waugh. “I am hopeful that the Senate will consider and pass this bill quickly.”

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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer, editor, and site runner for PlayCanada. She lives in Halifax with an awesome teen, a mischievous cat, and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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