The 2014 Winter Olympics wrapped up in Sochi Russia yesterday, with Canadians celebrating coast to coast to coast at the final medal tally. Canada finished third in total medal standings, but patriots were most excited that both the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams won gold medals against all other competitors – championing what is long defined as Canada’s game.
Athletes return home today, and business, as usual, will resume for the champions. The NHL will welcome Olympic heroes back into the fold this week, with league playing resuming later in the week after a two-week break for the Olympics.
The Olympics were a celebration of national pride and athletic performance for participating nations around the world. But for many Canadians, including the Canadian Gaming Association, the event is a reminder that Canada’s outdated sportsbetting laws cost opportunities to both make and earn money.
While sportsbooks in Canadian casinos, as well as on the strip in Las Vegas are prohibited from taking bets on the Olympics, those prohibitions are propped up by laws that no longer are part of the modern world. Canadians are forced to bet on a minimum of three separate competitions to legally make their wager in regulated casinos, yet people unapologetically prefer single game sportsbetting authorized on online gambling domains.
For example, some online sportsbooks did place odds on the Olympics and even the men’s hockey tournament – with Canada favoured to come out as the winner. These online sportsbooks operate outside of Canadian jurisdiction, and consequently, any money bet on these domains is money lost to the Canadian economy.
Bill C-290, a bill stuck in the Senate, would reform Canada’s archaic sportsbetting laws by giving provinces the authority to legalize single game bets in casinos – offline and online in provinces with government-backed online casinos.
The bill is unlikely to authorize bets on future Olympic events, as the International Olympic Committee strictly forbids countries from accepting bets on Olympic matches. In Las Vegas, where sportsbetting is widely practiced, bets are banned on “any amateur non-collegiate sport or athletic event” – meaning non-professional sports league matches are prohibited.
But the Olympics do remind Canadians that the current system strictly forbids betting on any single game or match, in professional leagues or otherwise. Offshore sites that allow single-game sportsbetting on any professional sports profit from government inaction to reform laws.
Bill Rutsey, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, says the status quo only supports illegally run offshore domains. According to Rutsey, Canadians have bet over $26 billion on offshore sportsbooks since Bill C-290 was stalled in the Senate nearly two years ago. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper placed a bet on Olympic hockey with US President Barack Obama.
“As I’ve warned before, inaction by the Senators only serves to fuel organized crime and offshore bookmakers, because they are the ones who profit from unlawful single-event wagering.”
While Senators continue to delay any action regarding Bill C-290, the CGA along with business bureaus, politicians, casino executives, and the majority of provinces are all lobbying the government to pass the bill into law.
With the Olympics concluded, the next big hockey event for Canadian fans is the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin in two months. Many fans have said for years they want to bet on the championship game, but require Bill C-290 to pass in order to do so.