Canadian Committee to Vote on Sports Betting Bill Sept 21

Sports Betting in CanadaSports betting in Canada is a a limited wagering activity. Residents are legally restricted to placing parlay bets on three or more events, where each selection must be correct in order to win the bet. Or, they can take their wagers online and bet on sports all they like; albeit without the nation’s consent.

That could change in the near future if bill C-221 manages to work it’s way through all levels of the government. According to LegaLSportsReport, unnamed “sources in the legislature” confirmed the fate of the Canadian sports betting bill will be determined – at least in part – on Wednesday, September 21.

That’s the day the Committee on Justice and Human Rights will give the legislation it’s first real vote. The hearing to discuss the measure has already been set in stone, but the future of C-221 is as murky as ever.

Canada Sports Betting Bill

C-221 was introduced by MP Brian Masse in early 2016. The introductory text of the bill relates it’s legislative purpose:

This enactment repeals paragraph 207(4)‍(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race or fight or on a single sport event or athletic contest.”

In layman’s terms, Canadian punters would finally be able to place a wager on a single sporting event, such as a tennis game, CFL match-up, boxing bout or auto race.

Under current law, a CFL fan would have to select at least three teams to win; all of which must be picked correctly, or the bet is lost. These wagers, known as parlays, have very long odds, and no-doubt detract from the nation’s legal betting market.

Instead, the majority of sports betting in Canada is taking place illegally, via organized crime rings and/or offshore internet bookies. It’s been estimated by NDP officials, who support the passage of C-221, that the nation’s illegal sports gambling market is generating $14-$15 billion each year.

Pros, Cons and Other Arguments

Supporters of the legislation are attracted by the fact that legalizing and regulating single-event sports wagers would not only help to generate a lot more revenue by way of taxation, but it would also stand to decimate – if not entirely obliterate – the country’s illegal gambling market.

Those who’ve stated their opposition to C-221 argue that it won’t really do much to curb illicit gambling rings or stop punters from taking their sports betting online. They have also verbalized fears that a legal market would simply proliferate problem gambling in Canada.

Two Paths, One Big Decision

When the Committee meets later this month, there are two possible outcomes on the agenda. Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict which path will be taken.

On the one hand, the Committee could deliberate and decide to reject the sports betting bill. If that’s the case, MP Masse’s efforts will die in vein before the day is over.

On the other hand, if the Committee votes in favor of C-221, it will be referred to the House of Commons. Based on analytical data, the House should have enough viable support to get the measure approved and on to the next step, the Senate. Therein lies the biggest problem.

The Senate is brimming with anti-gambling advocates who have historically opposed any and all expansions of gaming. Despite the evident “economic advantages”, Liberal MP Bill Blair echoed the sentiments of other members who believe “the impact that this proposed change could have on individuals and families” isn’t a risk worth taking.

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