Bill C-218 has crossed the goal-line!
On June 22, 2021, the Senate passed Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, which will amend the Criminal Code to allow provincial governments to determine when and how to conduct and manage single-event sports betting offerings within their borders.
While certain forms of sports betting, such as parlay betting, have been legal in Canada for decades, betting on the outcome of a single sporting event has continued to be restricted under section 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code. Bill C-218 amends section 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to remove the long-standing prohibition on betting on the outcome of “any race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest”.
Bill C-218 is a private member’s bill originally introduced on February 25, 2020 by Saskatoon-Grasswood Conservative MP Kevin Waugh. After successfully passing through its third reading in the House of Commons with overwhelming, all-party support on April 22, 2021, Bill C-218 was introduced in the Senate on April 30, 2021. The bill later passed second reading on May 25, 2021 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.
The Bill was approved by the Senate on its third reading on June 22, 2021. Once Bill C-218 receives royal assent, it will become law. However, while Bill C-218 will become law once the bill receives royal assent, the amendments to the Criminal Code contained in the bill will come into force at a later date by order of the Governor in Council. The coming into force date remains to be determined.
Bill C-218 is the culmination of multiple attempts dating back to 2012 to end Canada’s long-standing restriction on legal single-event sports betting. With considerable support from industry stakeholders, including major professional sports leagues, this most recent attempt to remove the prohibition on single-event sports betting has finally made its way successfully through the parliamentary process. The passage of the Bill represents a significant development in the Canadian gaming landscape and is a potentially massive source of revenue for provincial governments with some analyst projections suggesting that the legal sports betting market in Canada could grow to nearly C$28-billion in five years.
For more information on Bill C-218 and its journey through the legislative process, refer to our April 2021 bulletin: Single-Event Sports Betting: Decriminalization in the Cards as Bill C-218 Passes House of Commons.
THE PROVINCIAL PLANS
By removing the prohibition in section 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code on single-event sports betting, Bill C-218 (once it receives royal assent and comes into force) will effectively allow individual provinces and territories to decide when and how to implement and regulate single-event sports betting within their respective borders.
Not all provinces and territories have announced their plans for how they expect to implement and regulate single-event sports betting. Here is what we know today:
British Columbia and Alberta both plan to implement single-event sports betting as soon as Bill C-218 becomes law and is in force. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has announced plans to offer single-event sports betting within days of legalization through playnow.com, the province’s only regulated online gaming website. The BCLC has also indicated that they are considering how best to expand single-event sports betting offerings to existing land-based gaming sites in the province. Similarly, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) has announced plans to introduce a single-event sports betting platform on the AGLC’s regulated gaming website, playalberta.com. The AGLC has also indicated that the organization will work with industry stakeholders to offer single-event sports betting in destination facilities in Alberta.
Ontario has indicated that legalized single-event sports betting will form a critical component of the iGaming model that Ontario is in the process of developing. The iGaming model will allow for registered private operators to offer a range of gaming products to Ontarians and is a novel approach to digital gaming in Canada. The latest on the development of Ontario’s iGaming model is covered in our recent bulletin: Ontario iGaming: Who Will be Eligible. In the near term, it remains to be seen whether Ontario will also create a framework for single-event sports betting at land-based gaming sites (once they reopen) or provide single-event sports betting offerings via the OLG’s existing online play options.
The Atlantic provinces are also expected to implement single-event sports betting within a few weeks of legalization. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC), which is the provincial lottery corporation established by the governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, has indicated that single-event sports betting offerings would be added to the ALC’s existing regulated gaming site following ALC receiving the approval of the regulatory agencies in each individual Atlantic province.