ustice Minister and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti introduced legislation to legalize single-event sports betting in the country, marking a change in direction for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
The bill would amend paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to allow provinces to issue licenses for companies to accept wagers on all sporting events except horse racing. The legislation would maintain the federal government’s role concerning pari-mutuel systems of betting with respect to horse racing. It is currently illegal to bet on single games under Canadian law.
“The goal of the legislation is simple: it is to bring a common practice out of the shadows and into the open. To make it legal, regulated and safe,” Lametti told reporters Thursday in Ottawa, as reported by BNN Bloomberg. The governing Liberal Party voted against a similar bill in parliament in 2016.
Canadians spend $10 billion (US$7.7 billion) per year on single-event betting through illegal bookies and a further $4 billion on international betting websites, according to Lametti.
Shares of Canada-based Score Media & Gaming Inc. soared on the announcement. Founder and CEO John Levy issued a statement in response to the new government bill: “Canadians deserve a modernized and regulated sports betting market and we commend the federal government for their efforts to legalize single-event wagering,” said Levy. “There is now clear cross-party support and strong momentum to amend Canada’s outdated federal laws and enable the legal sports betting market to flourish. As the leading mobile sports brand in Canada, we are eager to bring theScore Bet to our fans and offer them our best-in-class sports betting experience.”
theScore estimates a market potential for online gaming in Canada of between US$3.8 billion and US$5.4 billion in annual gross gaming revenue, based on historical data extrapolated from legal online gaming markets in the U.S. and globally.
Other companies that could benefit from the change include FanDuel, GVC, Great Canadian Gaming, DraftKings, Mohegan Sun Casino and Hard Rock International, according to James Kilsby, a Washington-based analyst at Vixio GamblingCompliance.
Provinces would also earn a new tax revenue source as a second wave of COVID-19 depletes fiscal coffers and wreaks havoc on the economy. The gambling industry in Ontario alone could see $1.47 billion in revenue, Kilsby said.
“Canada’s gaming industry has been severely impact by COVID-19 so having access to this new product will assist in the industry’s recovery,” said Paul Burns, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. “Our expectation is that it will now move expediently through the process to completion.”