Canada moves out of gambling wilderness as Bill C-218 secures final approval

By | June 23, 2021

Canada ends its decade long drama to legislate single sports wagering, as yesterday evening the Senate approved the third and final reading of ‘Bill C-218 The Safe & Regulated Sports Act’. 

Approved without any amendment, Bill C-218 will allow Canada’s ten provinces to choose whether to independently regulate for single-event wagering on pro-sports events.

Of heightened significance, Bill C-218 will further undo gambling from being governed by Canada’s Criminal Code as a federal discipline, as gambling laws and penalties will be handled by individual province executives.

“This is a major milestone and achievement for the Canadian gaming industry,” said Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA).

“The CGA has been working to legalise single-event sports betting for more than 10 years and Bill C-218 benefited from a groundswell of broad stakeholder support from across Canada. The need for regulation, oversight, player protection, and the creation of economic benefits for Canada was understood by everyone involved in the legislative process, which is why the Bill was successfully passed.”

Designed by long-term sports betting advocate Brian Masse, MP for Windsor West Ontario, Bill C-218 began its passage at the beginning of 2020.

Following previous failed final hearings to legalise single sports wagering, Bill C-218’s journey would be backed by Kevin Waugh MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood, as the Bill’s sponsor in the House.

Last summer,  the CGA secured a vital outreach by Canadian and US pro-sports leagues (NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB) urging MPs to support the passage of Bill C-218 to decriminalise and modernise Canada’s gambling laws.      

After clearing the Commons, Bill C-218 would be backed by Senator David Wells, as the Bill’s sponsor through its Senate readings, as stakeholders prepared for its Royal Assent.

Following yesterday’s approval, the CGA published a list of supporting stakeholders and witnesses that had helped Bill C-218 gain its Royal Assent, in which  Gord Brown, MP from Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes was recognised as a ‘tireless champion’ for the cause.

“The serious and thoughtful consideration of Bill C-218 by Senators and Members of Parliament will dramatically improve the ability to offer sports betting in Canada and provide an important competitive tool for an industry that has been severely impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns,” stated Carrie Kormos, Chair of the CGA.

Industry eyes will now focus on the government of Ontario, which is scheduled to publish its legislative framework regulating igaming services within Canada’s most populous state.

The approval of Bill C-218 has been deemed as a critical component to guarantee the launch of Ontario’s independent online gambling regime – designed by the province’s Ministry of Finance.

Addressing the SBC Digital North America conference last month, Stan Cho, MP for Willowdale and policy executive for Ontario’s Ministry of Finance remarked: “The bill will change federal codes to legalise single sports betting, but more importantly it will help Ontario capture that gray market activity – sports betting is a crucial offering for any legal gambling regime.” 

Cho noted that Ontario’s Treasury had been bombarded with ‘market estimates ranging from $500 million to $1 billion per year’ –  but maintained that focus was on establishing a level playing field for business, promoting safer gambling rules and securing a legislative guarantee to launch Canada’s first regulated marketplace.

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