Will The U.S. Sports Betting Decision Affect Canada?

Monday was a milestone day in the movement for legalized sports betting as the United States Supreme Court struck down a law that had prohibited states (other than Nevada) from offering gambling on sports in the past.

In declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court is now leaving it up to individual states to determine whether they want to allow their residents to bet on sports. New Jersey and 16 other states have already passed gambling legislation and are expected to feature Vegas-style sportsbooks in time for football season, while some states aren’t likely to allow any form of sports gambling.

But how will the US sports betting decision affect sports betting in Canada? And if it does, how quickly might we feel the effects?


What are the current sports betting laws in Canada?

Canadian sports betting laws have always been relaxed in comparison to our American neighbours.

Provinces have offered regulated sports betting in Canada since the early 1990s through Proline and other sports lotteries. Proline was made possible by a 1985 Canadian Criminal Code amendment that allowed provinces to offer sports betting as long as it was part of “a lottery scheme”, which is why you have to play multiple-game parlays and aren’t allowed to bet on one game at a time.

Wording in the Canadian Criminal Code also does not prohibit Canadians from betting with online sportsbooks, many of which are based offshore (although Sports Interaction operates out of the Kahnawake Reserve near Quebec.) The Code only prohibits citizens from being found in a gaming or betting house, or accepting bets – not making them. Many Canadians choose to use online betting sites because of the large signup bonuses, single-game betting and superior odds that they offer.


Why isn’t there single game sports betting in Canada already?

There nearly was. Recognizing the desire for single game sports betting in Canada and looking to capitalize on a U.S. market that wanted the same thing, politicians of several Canadian border cities have attempted to have single game sports betting in Canada approved by federal legislators in recent years.

The first attempt, Bill C-290, was passed by the House of Commons in 2012 but was never approved by the Canadian Senate and died in the summer of 2015. A revival of that act, titled Bill C-221 (The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act), was defeated the following summer in the House of Commons.


When could Canada follow the United States’ lead and allow single game sports betting?

It almost certainly won’t be for a couple of more years, at the earliest. That’s because the next Canadian federal election isn’t scheduled to be held until October 2019.

Why does the election matter? Because 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. It’s unlikely that any other MP will attempt to bring up a similar bill, especially given the resistance that Masse faced in 2016.

That said, provinces like British Columbia already have the infrastructure set up to offer single-game sports betting in Canada if and when they ever get the green light from the federal government. Canadian officials will no doubt be monitoring how state regulated sports betting goes south of the border and, if it’s successful, will want to implement it themselves.

It’s unlikely, however, that any provincially-regulated sports betting programs will be able to rival the options that Canadian bettors can access through the use of online sportsbooks. Proline and other provincial sports lotteries have been heavily criticized in the past for their unfair odds, a practice that would likely continue if single-game betting in Canada were approved.