Canadian’s have been placing single-event sports wagers for years, despite the fact that it’s illegal in the country. That’s been one of New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse’s lead arguments in pushing for a bill to legalize single-game sports betting. While C-221 – Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act – looked primed for passage this time around, it’s probability was largely downgraded this week when ruling Liberals voiced steadfast opposition.
C-221 is a virtual mirror of a previous sports betting bill, C-290, that saw a lot of progress before dying an unceremonious death when elections were called for.
As it stands now, Canadians are only (legally) able to place parlay bets, selecting a minimum of three contestants/teams to wager on. In order for that bet to be won, all 3+ selections must win their matches.
The new legislation would open the door for single-game sports betting; something the nation’s punters would clearly like to see legalized. Research has indicated that Canadians already wager millions of dollars every year on single-event betting, but they’re doing so at illegal offshore internet sportsbooks.
Masse spoke at Tuesday’s hearing – the second of three hearings scheduled for discussion of C-221 – reiterating his belief that legalization will help keep those millions within the country, providing more tax dollars to fund state and community programs.
In backing up his claims, Masse announced that he had conducted his own research to find out just how widespread illegal online sports betting had grown. He said he went online and searched for the term ‘Canadian Sports Betting Sites’, and Google came back with a staggering 530k results. That’s over half a million websites targeting Canadian bettors.
Masse also took aim at the hypocrisy of the National Hockey League, which expressly opposed C-290 in previous years. The NDP MP said that the NHL’s website provides a direct link to DraftKings, which provides betting on daily fantasy sports. If sports betting puts the integrity of games at risk, as the NHL claims, why promote any form of sports betting?
Things took a turn for the worse at that point when Charlestown’s Liberal MP, Sean Casey, took the podium to voice opposition to the sports betting bill. He started out by stating that most members of the Liberal party share the “same concerns” of many major professional sports leagues, that single-game wagering will jeopardize the integrity of the sport.
Casey added that current legal forms of parlay betting already pose a risk for potential match-fixing, and that it would only be compounded, making “a fraudster’s task easier”, if single-event wagering were to be legalized in Canada. In his words, lawmakers “should oppose legislation that may significantly affect this integrity.”
He then took up the argument that C-221 could lead to an augmentation in problem gambling. He spoke of research that showed low-income Canadians may be less likely to gamble, but those who do are more prone to addiction.
Last but not least, MP Casey tore apart Masse’s argument that Canadians are already betting on single events over the internet. He said that legalizing the activity would not stop internet betting at offshore sites because it gives them “easy access to credit, convenience and better odds.”
“Opposing this bill means protecting our most vulnerable citizens,” said MP Casey. As for the financial benefits to the nation, its provinces and local communities, he concluded they’re “clearly not strong enough to rationalize supporting this bill.”