Good Odds Single-Event Sports Betting Will Soon Be Legal in Canada

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

[co-author: Luiz Brasil, Articling Student]

On November 26, 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-13, which seeks to decriminalize single-event sports betting, while maintaining the pari-mutuel system of betting for horse racing.

As it stands today, wagering on the outcome of a single sporting event is illegal under the Criminal Code, a prohibition that the Canadian Gaming Association estimates costs the Canadian gaming industry C$14-billion annually. Canadians who wish to wager on sporting events must do so in a parlay fashion, betting on the outcome of multiple games at once.

Bill C-13 seeks to amend section 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to remove the existing prohibition on wagering on the outcome of a single sporting event. If passed, Bill C-13 would enable the provinces and territories to offer single-event sport betting products and the ability to conduct and manage single-event sport betting offerings in their jurisdictions.

Bill C-13 follows on the heels of Bill C-218, a private member’s bill introduced earlier this year, which sought to amend the Criminal Code with respect to single-event sports betting but was shelved due to COVID-19. A similar attempt was made in 2016 but was defeated in the House of Commons. The 2016 attempt followed the passage in the House of Commons of a private member’s bill legalizing single-sports betting, which was originally introduced in 2012 but was stalled in the Senate. To learn more about past legislative attempts to repeal or amend the Criminal Code restriction on single-sports betting, please see our March 2020 Blakes Bulletin: Single-Event Sports Betting: Will Bill C-218 Parlay Its Way Through Parliament? Some Would Like to Bet on It.

This most recent development follows a commitment in Ontario’s 2020 Budget to continue to push the federal government to decriminalize single-event sports betting. This was also one of the core gaming-related components of Ontario’s 2019 Budget.

We will continue to monitor the progress of Bill C-13 through the House of Commons.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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