Canada's House of Commons voted down Bill C-221, which would have amended the Canadian Criminal Code to allow provinces to offer single-game betting. (Photo credit: Bob Linsdell via Foter.com / CC BY)
The newest Canada sports betting bill that would have allowed provinces to offer single game sports betting in Canada has been defeated in the House of Commons.
Bill C-221, otherwise known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, received just 46 per cent support (133 of 289 votes) in the Canadian parliament. The governing Liberal party led opposition to the bill, citing concerns about problem gambling and match fixing.
There’s been a lot of media coverage of this, dating back to the Bill C-290 status (Bill C-290 was the first attempt to allow government regulated single game sports betting, but it died in the Canadian Senate in 2015), and also a lot of confusion.
We’ll try to clear that up in this Q&A about the current status of Canada sports betting, including the online sports betting Canada landscape.
1. What Would The Passing Of Bill C-221 Have Meant?
If Bill C-221 had passed, paragraph 207 (4)(b) of the Canadian Criminal Code would have been amended to allow provincial governments to offer single game sports betting.
Currently, the Canadian Criminal Code only allows the provinces to offer sports betting if it is done in a ‘lottery scheme’. That’s why Proline and other provincial sports lotteries have a parlay requirement (you must combine several outcomes onto one ticket).
Had Bill C-221 gone through, we’d have been able to bet on one game at a time at our local convenience store. PlayNow.com (the website of the online sports lottery in British Columbia) was designed to have the ability to offer single game betting if and when it was allowed to.
— Terry Wilkins (@TJWinSC) May 4, 2016
We also could have had Las Vegas-style sportsbook betting at Canadian casinos, especially those located near the U.S. border as they would have drawn plenty of Americans. Under the current system, Casino Windsor sports betting and Casino Niagara sports betting are limited to parlay offerings, similar to the provincial lotteries such as Proline point spread .
There’s no guarantee that the odds on provincial single game sports betting would have been as good as on online sports betting sites, but it would have been nice to find out.
2. So now what?
Since Bill C-221 was a private member’s bill brought forward by NDP Windsor West MP Brian Masse, he won’t be able to bring it up again until after the next federal election.
That means that for the next several years, the only ways to do single game sports betting in Canada remain through the use of online sportsbetting sites or illegal bookies.
Both options enable you to bet on one game at a time, like the Super Bowl, instead of having to combine those bets with other bets on one ticket.
In his argument for government-regulated single game sports betting in Canada, Masse (whose riding would have benefited greatly from it, being home to Casino Windsor) said illegal bookmakers profit approximately $10 billion per year, while offshore sportsbooks take in another $4 billion.
According to Statista, 32 per cent of Canadians did some form of online gambling in 2014 – nearly double the percentage of Canadians to do online gambling in both 2010 and 2012.
3. Wait. Isn’t single game sports betting in Canada illegal?
News organizations often group illegal bookmakers and online betting sites (online sportsbooks) together when referring to “illegal gambling.”
However, it isn’t illegal to place single game sports bets in Canada. The Canadian Criminal Code only prevents individuals or organizations from accepting them.
So if you’re doing your sports betting with a local bookie, it can easily be argued that you are not breaking any laws, but that the bookie is. It could also be argued that by using an illegal bookmaker, you are supporting organized crime.
In 2013, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided a Super Bowl party in Markham that was organized by an illegal sports betting ring allegedly tied to the Mafia and the Hell’s Angels. More than 2,000 people were at the party, but according to reports, the only arrests that came out of the raid were those who ran the betting ring, not the bettors themselves.
The use of online sports betting sites, meanwhile, is not illegal, as long as they’re licensed and located in a jurisdiction that allows them to operate.
Most online sportsbooks are registered and located in other countries. However, Sports Interaction is based in the Kahnawake reserve in Quebec (completely legally) and Bodog has servers based in Canada.
The bottom line is that as long as you’re not the one accepting single game bets in Canada, and you’re not in an illegal gaming or betting house, it appears you aren’t breaking any laws by doing single-game sports betting in Canada.
For a more in-depth answer to this question, read our article: Is Online Sports Gambling Legal in Canada?