Will Single Game Sports Betting Compromise Integrity?

Could expansion of Canada sports betting law lead to illegal match fixing?

Canada Sports Betting LawWhen the US Supreme Court ruled to overturn a 26 year old law prohibiting sports betting in all states but Nevada, it ignited a fire beneath political agendas all across Canada. One after another, advocates of legalizing single game sports betting bled from the woodwork, touting numerous benefits. At the same time, opponents began pleading their case, with a single, but ominous, message.

Sports Betting Expansion leads to Match Fixing

Anti-gambling expansion crusaders fear, above all, that such an expansion would potentially compromise the integrity of Canada’s professional sports leagues. Their theory is a simple one, and one that government officials don’t seem to have an answer for; at least not yet.

How do you ensure that the athletes and/or referees won’t be swayed by generous ‘donations‘ to throw a game, or make an erroneous call? If organized crime is able to infiltrate Canadian sports for profit, it could not only destroy a multi-billion dollar industry, but the beloved pastimes of fans all across the country.

Sandy Garossino has spent years lobbying against the expansion of gambling. In 2011, she co-founded an organization called Vancouver Not Vegas; a successful campaign that helped to dissuade Vancouver City Council from approving the expansion of a downtown casino.

She is leery of the potentially corruptive effects of single game sports betting. “You can do a lot of damage to the integrity of your oversight and regulatory culture when you make [officials] responsible for a field that is inherently at risk of infiltration by organized crime,” says Garossino.

Support Mounts for New Canada Sports Betting Law

Despite those fears, the support for expansion is mounting. The very moment the US Supreme Court decision was announced, the Canada Gaming Association (CGA) spoke out in favor of single-sport betting. Others were quick to follow.

The British Columbia Lottery Corp (BCLC) is another long time proponent of expansion. BCLC told Business in Vancouver in no uncertain terms that it’s on board with the idea, having supported altering the Criminal Code to permit wagers on individual games for many years.

Legislation was submitted to do just that in 2012. The House of Commons unanimously passed the measure, but it failed miserably in the Senate. Manitoba MP Brian Masse renewed the charged in 2016, but this time it was the House of Commons that turned it down by a vote of 156-133.

An optimistic Paul Burns, President of the CGA, believes ‘the third time’s the charm‘. In his assessment, the support of North American sports leagues, like the NBA and MLB, had everything to do with nationwide legalization in the US. He thinks similar lobbying efforts will usher in a new legislative era here in Canada, as well.

“We know that there’s an appetite for single-event wagering because of the volume of money that we’ve been able to ascertain that goes to overseas sports books,” asserts Burns. “It’s in excess of $4 billion annually.”

Single Event Sports Betting = More Money for Gov’t

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that money makes things happen. In this case, provincial governments are looking at millions, if not billions, of dollars that could be flowing into their coffers. Instead, that money is siphoning offshore to international, online sportsbooks that offer single-event betting.

It’s not illegal for Canadians to access these websites. Burns points out that the Criminal Code says gambling can only be regulated and conducted by provincial governments. But since these operators are offshore, the bets don’t take place in Canada. Therefore no court challenge has ever arisen. No Canadian has ever been charged with illegal betting for using the sites. And no government agency is collecting any revenue from it.

In a statement, BC Attorney General David Eby agrees that a change to Canada sports betting law just might be the perfect answer to a growing problem. “It may be that legalization and regulation of single-sport betting is ultimately the most appropriate route to address this ongoing issue of unregulated sites.”

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