End Of The Road: Canadian Sports Betting Bill Reaches Final Senate Vote

Written By Robyn McNeil on June 22, 2021 - Last Updated on September 20, 2022
The empty Canadian Senate chamber featuring red carpets, golden walls and ceiling, and rich mahogany furniture

Canadians will soon know if they can legally bet on single sporting events. 

Bill C-218, the bill that would legalize single-event sports betting in Canada, is scheduled for its final vote today. Historically, Canadians betting on sports can only place parlay bets on the outcome of multiple events. If passed, the bill will make single-event wagering legal and regulated by the provinces. 

A long road

First introduced by Conservative Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon-Graswood) in February 2020, Bill C-218  moved through Parliament relatively quickly. But, C-218 is not the first bill to take a crack at amending the Criminal Code. Over the last ten years, three bills have attempted to legalize single-event wagering. While Bill C-290 came close in 2012, C-218 is the first to make it to a third vote in the Senate.

During the debate leading to today’s vote, Bill C-218 faced several challenges. Amendments to the bill proposed to confront match-fixing and protect Indigenous rights ultimately got rejected by standing vote. Canada’s horse racing industry successfully lobbied for an amendment protecting its interests during an earlier committee stage in the House

Eyes wide shut

While the moment’s pulse seems to indicate C-218 will pass its third vote with ease, victory is seldom assured. 

Although the bill has, so far, received all-party support, its recent speed is ringing alarm bells for some senatorsYesterday, as the debate resumed, Senator Gwen Boniface (Ontario) rose to express concerns with the bill.

I don’t believe that we, as senators, have given this bill the time and deliberation needed to understand all the impacts of what this legislation entails,” she said. “I am in no way against the idea of single-event sport betting. But, I am a firm believer that this is a bill that must proceed with caution after more fulsome study.”

In closing, Senator Boniface asked the chamber to exercise their sober second thought.

“I am unmoved by an argument that revolves around, “It’s already being done in the shadows. So, we might as well bring it into the light.” Colleagues, if we’re going to bring it into the light, let’s do it with our eyes open.”

Place your bets

Whether Senator Boniface’s concerns are shared by enough of her peers to defeat the bill is unknown. But, we won’t be waiting long to find out.

Yesterday, once the Senate agreed to C-218’s third reading, Senator Plett (Manitoba) moved to defer the vote to the next sitting. With that,  the Senate Speaker, Senator Furey (Newfoundland), placed the vote on the order paper for 3:30 p.m. EST today. Whether or not Canada will legalize sports betting will soon become clear. But will the yays or nays have it?

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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with 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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