CA Sports Bill C-218 Passes Second Reading

MP Waugh’s sports betting bill passes second reading with 303-15.

Waugh’s Sports Betting Bill Passes Reading 2 with 303-15 Vote

Canada is one step closer to legalizing single-event sports betting. Last week, a measure that had spent years undervalued in the political arena received near-unanimous consent in the House of Commons. I’m referring, of course, to MP Kevin Waugh’s (Conservative, Saskatoon – Grasswood) Bill C-218, introduced last year in an ongoing effort to decriminalize wagering on single sporting events. With C-218 garnering nods from 303 of the 318 members of the House of Commons, there’s only one step remaining before the bill becomes law, and virtually no opposition to stand in its way.

Wait… What Happened to Gov. Bill C-13?

Since November, everyone with an interest in the widespread legalization of sports betting in Canada has been awaiting the results of Government Bill C-13. That bill, introduced late last year, was a near copy of MP Waugh’s Private Member Bill C-218, which had been on the docket since February 2020. Assuming the Saskatoon MP’s legislation had been all-but forgotten, federal figureheads introduced a higher level bill to get the job done.

The first reading of Bill C-13 passed in November 25, 2020, and support was overwhelming. It marked the first time Canadians felt genuine hope that sports gambling would finally receive the legal expansion they believed it deserved. All eyes were on Parliament Hill, awaiting the new bill’s second reading slated for February 25, 2021. But before that day came, something unexpected occurred.

MP Waugh—who had decided to hold onto his measure beyond the introduction of Bill C-13, partly because its verbiage was slightly different, and also as a back-up plan, “just in case things did not proceed” as hoped—was afforded an opportunity to debate C-218 among his political colleagues. That spontaneous deliberation led to a second reading and vote on Wednesday, February 17.

Round 2: MP Waugh’s Sports Betting Bill Wins 303-15 Vote

The House of Commons displayed rare bipartisan approval for the sports wagering law. The measure was approved by an overwhelmingly popular vote of 303 to 15. And with that, Bill C-13 was no more.

The question many are pondering now is this: After all this time, what was it about Waugh’s debate that convinced so many of his colleagues to favor passage of the single-event sports betting law?

Most likely, it was the MP’s citing of statistics, which attribute lack of legalization to billions of dollars funneling offshore; money that could be so much better utilized to fund local communities and infrastructure.

“We believe, through the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), that it’s a $14 billion dollar industry that Canadian provinces and Canadians are not getting any benefit from,” MP Waugh told news media. That number derives from CGA’s estimates that Canadians spend $4 billion a year at unregulated offshore betting sites, and $10 billion more with illegal domestic bookmakers.

“We don’t get any taxes through organized crime,” Waugh said. “We don’t get any taxes through organizations like Bodog and Bet365 – the offshore sites.” If Bill C-218 makes it into the law books, Waugh said it will grant provinces, “the much-needed money to give back to sports, culture, recreation and hopefully addictions programming, which I am certainly championing along with this bill.”

How Long Before Single-Event Sports Betting Becomes Legal in Canada?

According to MP Waugh himself, single-event sports wagers could be legal as early as Spring. He believes the review, third reading, and final vote in the Senate could occur by the end of May. But it will be a bit longer before Canadians see live and online sportsbooks welcome straight bets on their favorite sports teams.

Passage of Waugh’s sports betting bill would provide provinces with the legal route to script regulations for single-event betting, which they’ll have to do before they can start the process of accepting, reviewing and approving licenses for vendors and operators of sports betting services. Some company’s, like Canada’s locally owned theScore, along with DraftKings, FanDuel and others, are already preparing for the legal shift, which could realistically see this type of sports betting on the market before the year is out.

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