HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 19Issue 9Canada Sports Wagering Legislation Update

The Canadian Senate continues to debate Bill C-290, (“C-290”), legislation that, if passed, would allow single-game sports wagering throughout Canada by amending the country’s criminal code to remove the current ban on the practice. The most recent parliamentary debate, which occurred on March 7, 2013, allowed for senators and others to state their opposition to the bill.

C-290 was first introduced by Joe Comartin (Windosr-Tecumseh) in February of 2011 to expand authorized sports wagering to include single-game wagers. Current law only allows for parlay-style wagers and are offered through provincial government products, such as Sport Select, Pro-Line, and the “Game Picks” parlay wagering currently offered at Casino Windsor. In March of 2012, C-290 unanimously passed in the House of Commons and was sent to the Senate for approval.

The bill, however, has faced opposition in the Senate in several readings and debates over the past year. During the initial discussions in the Senate last March, Senator Bob Runciman (Ontario) stated his support for the bill “not because I am a fan of gambling…but because it is obvious that anyone who wants to bet on a football or hockey game is already doing it. Rather than benefiting the provincial government, they are benefiting, among others, organized crime.”

Since this initial statement of support, several senators have noted their opposition to the legislation, often citing concerns over the country’s professional and amateur sports programs. At the March 7, 2013 hearings, Senator Donald Neil Plett (Manitoba) cited statements and written comments received from the National Football League and the Toronto Blue Jays in opposition to expanding sports wagering and further noted that “[t]he National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Hockey League, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have all expressed their opposition and concerns with Bill C-290 since they believe that it puts sports at risk in Canada by undermining its integrity and public confidence.” Senator Plett also stated that the expansion of sports wagering would have widespread social costs across the country. These concerns were also raised in debates last May by Senator Norman Doyle (Newfoundland and Labrador), who stated that “[t]here is nothing, in my opinion at least, about this NDP bill that is of any value to society at all. In fact, it would hurt society. Its only aim is to add further problems and further social consequences to an already bad situation.”

C-290 remains in the Senate at its Third Reading, the final stage of debate before a final vote. A final vote on the legislation has not yet been scheduled as of the date of this publication.

Sports wagering expansion remains a topic of debate in the United States as well, with two separate bills recently being introduced in Congress that seek to amend provisions of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), the federal law prohibiting sports wagering outside of the licensed Nevada sports books and certain limited lottery games and non-banking sports pools previously authorized in Oregon, Delaware and Montana. See “Sports Wagering Expansion Bills Introduced in Congress,” Michigan Gaming Newsletter,Vol. 19, Issue 4. Though these expansion bills have been introduced, neither have advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Additionally, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, along with other interested parties, have appealed a recent U.S. District Court opinion that affirms the constitutionality of the sports wagering expansion prohibition contained in PASPA.  See “New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Appeals Sports Wagering Rule,” Michigan Gaming Newsletter, Vol. 19, Issue 7. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is expected to hear arguments in this matter later this summer.


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