Progress? It’s hard to look back and find too much in Canadian sports in 2020. After all, it was a year where our professional sports teams, just like us, tried and struggled to find a new standard. Our hockey teams, bless them, are always looking.
But at the end of the year, progress of a different kind was made. On the fringes of professional sports perhaps, but less and less. Sports gambling, for so long a thorny subject in these regions, finally seems to be on the verge of being properly legalized and brought up to standard with much of the rest of the world.
With changes and updates on how Canadian sports fans can bet on their teams likely to arrive early and often in 2021, now is a good time to take stock, look at the current landscape, chart the course. future terrain and assess what that might mean …
- So where are we now? The truth is, Canada has been stuck in one place for a very long time. While the sports betting industry has revolutionized online and particularly in a mobile environment in its largest global markets, Canada has stood still.
The country’s penal code, which prohibits betting on single events, has hampered the industry here… but not reduced consumer demand. With parlays, like those offered by Ontario’s Proline, often the extent of the regulated supply here, Canadian sports fans have instead turned to unregulated and sometimes risky avenues.
The gray market, represented by offshore companies like bet365.com and others, and the black market, unregulated bookies often backed by organized crime, combine to see up to $ 14 billion wagered on sporting events here every year, according to the Canadian Gaming Association.
Successive governments have resisted attempts to lift the ban on single event betting. Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, told The Star this week that the professional association’s sports betting project has been running since 2008. And this year of all years there is finally had some progress.
At the end of November, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-13, which would amend the bill and pave the way for modernizing the industry here to finally begin.
“The purpose of the legislation is simple,” Justice Minister David Lametti said at the time. “It’s about bringing a common practice out of the shadows and seeing it in broad daylight. To make it legal, regulated and safe. “
- And where are we going (probably)? The bill received first reading in early December and it was hoped that it would find its way into the House of Commons before the Christmas recess. But, after all this time, what’s the rush? Instead, it will be picked up in the New Year and, without any problems, could be adopted in early spring. It will then be up to the provinces to create their own regulatory and approved markets, plans that some provinces have already been preparing.
Canadian businesses have also prepared tentatively. The country’s two telecommunications and media giants, Rogers and Bell, are among those expected to seek opportunities and grow in the industry.
Since the United States opened up its sports gambling market with a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2018, change in Canada feels more like a tangible possibility. Long considered something to be kept at bay, and preferably in the shadows, betting and everyday fantasy have crushed the North American sporting stream.
Still, it seems unlikely that Canada would have taken the final step without the participation of the major professional sports leagues. Last summer, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Gary Bettman, MLB Chief Rob Manfred, Major League Soccer Don Garber and CFL Randy Ambrosie sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge the government to act. It’s likely that by the time Silver and Bettman kick off their 2021-22 season, their words will have paid off.
“The hope is that by the fall, even Labor Day, we’ll see an expanded sportsbook offering,” CGA’s Burns told The Star. “It shouldn’t have taken that long. But the finish line is in sight.
“I think it’s recognition of how this has changed in the United States and [pro] leagues want to help create the right environment now to access this product [in Canada]. The consumers are there. It was a matter of catching up with them.
- What are the rewards? For betting enthusiasts, the changes will be welcome, especially in Ontario where the government has signaled that a robust and diverse offering is the goal. In addition to bets on a single game, bets on specific outcomes are likely to be available from the start.
For example, if a Raptors fan is en route to Scotiabank Arena on game night and wants to support the home team, log into an app and bet $ 5 on Raps to win and $ 5 on Pascal Siakam to score. 30. -more points (the type of betting that European players have been able to make for years) is likely to be possible. Live and in-game betting too. Do you think Mitch Marner will score the winner in the third period? Place this bet as the Leafs enter the period.
The financial implications for the leagues themselves, through partnerships, sponsorship deals and increased engagement at a time when attracting new fans was such a priority, are obvious. “Sports betting offers fans another exciting way to engage in the sports they love,” the leagues said in their letter to the Prime Minister.
It may also be no coincidence that the Liberals passed such legislation after a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic looted federal and provincial coffers. Casinos across the country have been particularly affected by the closures. The ability for provinces to bring much of that $ 14 billion black and gray market back into their regulated space through online operators and casino sports betting will be a welcome financial boost for everyone.
- And the risks? As the potential opening of the Canadian market does not look so much like loosening the knot as untying – particularly in Ontario – there are of course also possible pitfalls.
While a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in October found that problem gambling has declined in the country in recent years, opening up the market to this degree is sure to be of concern to addiction experts. And with justification.
In the UK, where the regulation of gambling is similar to the model that may be explored by Ontario with abundant mobile betting offerings, there has been an explosion in gambling addiction among young people. More than 55,000 children are among the country’s 300,000 problem gamblers, according to a UK House of Lords report this summer.
Coming later to the market, Canada, both federal and provincial, is in a better place to learn from mistakes elsewhere. In short, it must. Strict advertising limits would be a good start. As recently as last season, 10 of the 20 clubs in the English Premier League had gaming companies on the front of their shirts as main sponsors. This season, despite concerns raised, eight clubs have game sponsors.
From an industry perspective, Burns responds that Canada is already a world leader in responsible gambling initiatives and supporting problematic bettors.
“Part of that is bringing this gray market back into a regulated market where all of these tools are available and promoted to players,” he told The Star. “As I have said many times, the Hell’s Angels do not have a responsible gaming program or plan to protect players.”
Regarding other risks, there have also been warnings that the federal government should use this moment to tighten match-fixing laws in sport, which are not specific at this time. The Canadian semi-professional soccer leagues, in particular, have been characterized as hotbeds of games set for profit.
There is of course still time to assess and fight against these risks. But not too much time. The sports betting revolution in Canada is finally gradually approaching.