Canada continues to wait for a vote that could change the country’s sportsbetting laws. A bill currently in debate in Ottawa would legalize single-game sports bets which are considered the most popular choice for sports bettors, and remove the condition that says a minimum of three games must be bet on for the wager to be legal. The bill has received support from casinos, law enforcement, five of Canada’s provinces, and unanimous approval in the House of Commons. However, opposition from North America’s major sports leagues has influenced several Senators, who have final say on the bill, to vote against it.
The President of the Canadian Gaming Association Bill Rutsey spoke out about the holdup in the Senate, and urged the upper house to do what he says is the right thing.
“We have a clear choice: either allow billions to go offshore and through illegal bookmaking operations, or offer Canadians a legal alternative, supervised by our provincial regulators, capturing revenue for government and creating good-paying, permanent new jobs.”
Sportsbetting is a very popular business in Canada with estimates of over $10 billion legally wagered on games, fights, and horseracing. Sportsbetting has legally existed in Canada for over two decades, and the amendment to include single games in the law has received widespread support across Canada. If passed, Canadians would legally be able to bet on the Superbowl or the Stanley Cup Final without worrying about another game to fill the ballot.
Currently these games do generate a large volume of betting activity, but it is activity done through illegal bookmakers or through online sportsbetting sites. Rutsey and several other gaming experts have argued that bets are being placed on these games regardless of the law, and this money is funding organized crime. They also suggest the law is outdated with today’s technology because Canadians have access to online sites that do accept single game bets.
The major sports leagues in North America have condemned the amendment, arguing it would increase the likelihood of match fixing. Toronto Blue Jays President Paul Godfrey spoke at the Senate committee, with claims that the integrity of the MLB would be compromised by single game sports wagers. Godfrey cited the 1919 “Black Sox scandal”, when several members of the Chicago White Sox deliberately through the World Series because of bribes from local gangsters. However, the notion that history would repeat itself if Canada allowed single game bets has been dismissed by several experts, who say that players today receive multi-million dollar contracts worth far more than a bribe.