A growing movement in the US supports legalizing sportsbetting outside the four grandfathered states exempted from a 1992 federal ban on the practice. The movement south of the border is expected to reignite tensions in Canada over single game sportsbetting, a motion that was defeated earlier this year though pro-reform lawmakers are determined to try again.
Americans were enlightened by a sportsbook in Bermuda called Sea Horses, which is a legitimate betting parlour licensed and supported by the national government. Sea Horses routinely offers odds on some of the world’s biggest sports games, including many matches among North America’s four major leagues – with the exception of the MLB.
Due to the US crackdown on offshore sportsbetting and gambling in online casinos, Sea Horses refuses to authorize American accounts though tourists are welcome to make bets while in Bermuda. Betting on these games is completely legal in countries that support sportsbetting, and millions of people take advantage by putting money on the line for their favourite games.
The success of Sea Horses is partly fuelling sportsbetting reform in the US, led primarily by the state of New Jersey. The Garden State government is in a legal battle regarding the 1992 sportsbetting ban, arguing that the exemption for Nevada, Delaware, and other states unfairly costs New Jersey taxable gambling revenue.
North America’s sports leagues are vehemently opposed to sportsbetting reform, and are the principle challengers in New Jersey’s case. However, in opposing a new discussion on the 1992 law, the leagues are ignoring overwhelming support in New Jersey for legalized sportsbetting. Other states, though the polls are not official, hint their citizens support a national reform on the practice.
The discussions in the US partly reflect the ongoing challenges in Canada. Unlike the US, sportsbetting is legal in Canada, but fans must bet on a minimum of three separate games to make the bet legal.
This outdated practice costs the Canadian economy millions, if not billions in taxable revenue as many Canadians simply choose to set up offshore sportsbetting accounts with Sea Horses or other providers. While the US government opposes offshore accounts for Americans, the Canadian government imposes no such restrictions.
A sportsbetting reform bill known as Bill C-290, which would have legalized single game sportsbetting, was introduced to Parliament, and passed the House of Commons with near unanimous support. But the legislation hit a roadblock in the Senate where the time stamp on the legislation was allowed to expire, thereby defeating the bill. Curiously, the sports leagues had a hand in this movement as lawyers lobbied senators to vote against the bill and maintain the status quo.
The leagues argue that widespread sportsbetting would increase cases of match fixing and expose their players to unnecessary risk. But legal sportsbetting and single game bets are accepted on these very games all over the world, primarily through online accounts. These bets never reach the eyes or ears of professional players, yet the leagues maintain their stance towards sportsbetting in North America.
Canadian lawmakers say they will introduce a new sportsbetting bill this fall, while the US is long overdue for a debate on sportsbetting reform. As the public pressure rises, can the sports leagues honestly maintain an outdated and largely uninformed position?