Single-event sports betting in Canada is now closer than it has ever been. Canada allowed limited parlay bets for a long time, but bill C-218 aimed to change that and is on the fast track to success. With single-event sports betting on its way to Canada, the provinces will need to set up a licensing, legal, and regulatory framework before they can launch. And once that happens, they’ll need to contend with some of the biggest US markets, especially in the northeast. Here’s what bettors need to know about the upcoming Canadian market.
Canadian Sports Betting On The Way
C-218, Canada’s sports betting bill, passed all three readings in the senate and will become law in June 2021. This seismic shift will bring single-event sports wagering to Canada, opening up the industry like never before. Due to the booming sports betting industry in the United States, Canadian political parties are motivated to grow their own sports betting industry.
Though C-218 has passed, Canada’s provinces still need to pass their own laws and establish rules that will govern sports betting.
Canada Sports Betting: Recent Updates
June 24, 2021:
BetMGM announced plans to launch in Canada, pending licensing and regulation.
June 23, 2021:
theScore, a longtime advocate for single-event wagering in Canada, chimed in on the passage of C-218.
June 22, 2021:
Bill C-218 passed the Senate and was set to become law just a few days after the announcement.
May 26, 2021:
The Canada Senate sent C-218 to committee, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.
March 30, 2021:
Canada sports betting inched closer to reality as bill C-218 passed its second reading. Gaming Today’s Chris Gerlacher covered the bill’s progress in detail.
Canada’s Current Sports Betting Options
Each Canadian province offers a sports betting option; however, they’re limited to different types of parlay bets, which discourages many bettors from putting money down. Each province also allows one operator to serve their provinces. So, Canadians have a limited choice in operators and sports wagers. It’s no wonder that most of their betting money is illegal or offshore. Here are the provinces’ current sports betting options:
|Sports Betting Company||Primary Sports Betting Offerings|
|Alberta||Western Canada Lottery Corporation||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
|British Columbia||British Columbia Lottery Organization||Sports Action - Retail - 2-6 line parlays
PlayNow Sports - Online - 2-20 line parlays
|Manitoba||Western Canada Lottery Corporation||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
|New Brunswick||Atlantic Lottery Corporation||PRO-LINE - 2-8 line parlays, Single event wagers that include multiple outcomes|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Atlantic Lottery Corporation||PRO-LINE - 2-8 line parlays, Single event wagers that include multiple outcomes|
|Nova Scotia||Atlantic Lottery Corporation||PRO-LINE - 2-8 line parlays, Single event wagers that include multiple outcomes|
|Ontario||Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp.||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
|Prince Edward Island||Atlantic Lottery Corporation||PRO-LINE - 2-8 line parlays, Single event wagers that include multiple outcomes|
|Quebec||Loto Quebec||Mise-O-Jeu - 2-8 line parlays|
|Saskatchewan||Western Canada Lottery Corporation||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
|Northwest Territories||Western Canada Lottery Corporation||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
|Nunavut||Western Canada Lottery Corporation||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
|Yukon||Western Canada Lottery Corporation||PRO-Line - 3-6 line parlays|
Clearly, Canadian sports bettors have few choices when it comes to sports betting. Anything larger than a two or three-line parlay becomes laughably unlikely. Even the single event wagers offered by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation aren’t wagers on single events. For example, some are wagers on whether a team will both win and make the point spread. In that context, it’s easy to see why Canadian sports betting needs reform.
How To Place A Bet In Canada
In the United States, the first step in placing a bet would be deciding which sportsbook to choose. American sportsbooks use competitive welcome bonuses to entice first-time bettors. However, Canadian sportsbooks don’t offer bonuses, and each province is run by one legitimate gaming company. So, Canadian bettors are stuck with whatever’s offered.
Actually Placing The Bet
Placing a bet is also inconvenient. Bettors start at one of the websites where PRO-Line is offered. Or PRO-LINE for lucky Prince Edward Islanders. Bettors can make their selections online, then email their betslips to themselves. After that, they have to visit a retail location to complete the wager and collect winnings. Adding that retail step should make bettors welcome the overhaul that’s hopefully coming to Canada.
Sports Betting In A Mature Market
In the United States, bettors have many sportsbooks to choose from. Some sportsbooks offer competitive odds on favorites, others on underdogs, and others have unpredictable odds trends. The welcome bonuses add additional considerations for bettors shopping across sportsbooks. From there, bettors create accounts that link their identities to their sportsbook accounts. That way, bettors can securely deposit their funds and receive their winnings all online. If Canadian sports betting reform becomes a reality, this is the streamlined betting process Canadians could look forward to.
Why Bet At Legal Licensed Sportsbooks?
Sticking to licensed sportsbooks means choosing a safe service with clear and transparent regulations. Canadian sportsbooks are subject to intense scrutiny and stringent license requirements that maximize bettor safety. Conversely, illegal, unlicensed, and offshore sportsbooks don’t have to conform to Canada’s sports betting regulations. These sportsbooks can let security slip and compromise bettor information. When single-event betting comes to Canada, bettors will have every reason to abandon their offshore sites. Even if it doesn’t, bettors should stick with companies that they can raise complaints against if something goes wrong. It’s better than losing money across the ocean.
Canada Sports Betting Revenue
Limited sports betting options have driven bettors to illegal sites and offshore sportsbooks. The proof is in Canada’s fancy polymer dollars. One team of gaming lawyers found that Canada’s bettors spent their money as follows:
- $10 million per year to illegal sportsbooks.
- $4 million per year to offshore sportsbooks.
- $500 million per year to legal Canadian sportsbooks.
Ouch. Canada’s outdated sports betting model is driving billions of dollars away from Canada’s legal gaming market. That’s why legal single-event wagering would be such a big deal for Canada. It’d recoup those losses to illegal and offshore sportsbooks by attracting bettors to better betting opportunities. Say that five times fast.
What A Competitive Canada Means For The United States
Most of our coverage has focused on the strong sports betting industry emerging in the United States. Competition between states like New York and New Jersey has even been entertaining; however, adding a competitive Canadian sports betting industry will attract bettors from northern states that are slow to legalize sports betting. For example, seven states have northern borders contiguous to Canada:
- North Dakota
These states still haven’t legalized sports betting, and residents living near the Canadian border will be able to cross over to place sports bets. It won’t work as well with Wisconsin. It’s tucked into Michigan, which has a particularly competitive sports betting industry. But Canada could draw bettors away from the other five states. Even if those states legalized sports betting and brought it online, Canada could still siphon bettors away. If Canada attracts major sportsbooks first, it can strain northern states’ efforts to create their own competitive sports betting markets.
Alternatively, these remaining northern states could leverage a second-mover advantage. Yes, that’s a thing. They could exploit the remaining flaws in Canada’s sports betting industry and improve on them. However, that seems less likely since Canada’s bills would authorize all its provinces to regulate sports betting similar to what we have in the US. It’s more likely that these last northern states will play catch-up for as long as they fall behind Canada.
Canada’s Reformed Sports Betting: Pros And Cons
The drawbacks to Canada’s current sports betting system are clear. However, even a perfectly reformed Canadian sports betting industry wouldn’t be perfect. Here are some pros and cons that bettors should be aware of.
Pros: Redirected Revenue
We’ve already seen how much money Canada’s legal sports betting industry loses to unlicensed competitors. Offering sports betting options that Canadians actually want will bring Canadians back into the legal sports betting industry. That renewed interest in Canadian sports betting will become revenue that Canadian businesses will get to enjoy. That will translate further to income taxes that Canadian businesses pay. It’ll be a revenue boost and offer better sports betting services to Canadians. Combined with the customers it could get from across the border, it could be a win-win for everybody.
Cons: Cannibalization Can Go Both Ways
The new sports betting industry will be like a shiny new toy in Canada. It’ll be off to a roaring start and draw some American bettors too; however, some American markets could still attract Canadians. Michigan allows online casinos and already has a thriving sports betting market. While Canada is getting its sportsbooks online, some southern Canadians will still be drawn to nearby American markets. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are the current major American markets near the American border. If Canada gets a slow start to sports betting, part of that reason will likely be competition from these markets.
Legalization Effort In Canada
Canada’s current legalization effort is being led by two bills. One, C-218, is a private member’s bill. It was introduced by one of the conservative members of the House. Private members’ bills are any bills that aren’t introduced by certain high-ranking government officials. Since those high-ranking government officials are appointed by the leading party member, government bills have a better chance of passing than private members’ bills.
However, it’s not the only attempt to reform sports betting. Two bills from the New Democratic Party failed. One made it to the Senate in 2015 then got voted down at the end. Another was voted down by the Liberal and Conservative parties. In Canada, the NDP, Liberal, and Conservative parties are different. However, this Conservative-sponsored bill has momentum.
One of the reasons it has hope is because it beat out the Liberal party’s competing legislation. After the Conservative bill added horse-racing protections, the Liberal party dropped its bill. Now, a private member’s bill with support from two of the three parties is in the Senate. Since the Liberal party is currently in power, that’s a big boost to the Conservative bill. That broad support could keep it alive through Senate deliberations, committee discussions, and final votes.
As excited as sports betting analysts are about Canadian sports betting reform, we have to remind ourselves that we’ve gotten this far before only to fail at the last minute. This could be the moment that everything changes, and it looks like it could be. But Canada doesn’t have sports betting reform until the bills are finalized and signed into law.
Timeline Of Canadian Sports Betting
- 1892 – Canada introduces its first criminal code. That doesn’t mean that Canada didn’t have laws before. It had plenty. But the criminal code introduced penalties for partaking in certain activities. In 1892, all gambling except horse racing was outlawed.
- 1954-1955 – A special committee reviews Canada’s gambling laws, with an emphasis on lotteries.
- 1969 – Canada legalizes government-run lotteries and licensed charitable lotteries. These prove profitable and momentum builds for new lucrative gambling ventures.
- 1985 – The government can now run video gaming devices. With a monopoly, the government made First Nations peoples operating gambling under government authority. This is also the year parlay bets become the only legal sports wagers.
- 2015-2016 – Two sports betting bills fail to pass. Sports betting remains limited to parlay bets.
- 2020 – The Liberal party introduced its sports betting bill, C-13. It was similar to C-218, except for its protections of pari-mutuel horse racing. After C-218 added horse racing protections, it made gains in the House and pulled well ahead of C-13. At this point, sports betting will get its long-awaited reform, be delayed a year, or fail again.
Canadian Sports Teams
Canadian sports teams have been eagerly awaiting sports betting reform, too. They can secure partnerships with sportsbooks, giving Canada’s sports teams new partnerships and revenue streams. Here are some of the major teams clamoring for sports betting reform in Canada.
Canadian Professional Sports Leagues
Canadian pro leagues want new ways to engage fans and secure partnerships. In November 2020, five professional leagues from the United States and Canada signed a letter urging Canada’s federal government to legalize single-event sports betting. Among them were the NHL and the Canadian Football League; however, every professional sports team could benefit from sports betting reform.
Canada’s seven professional hockey teams will be likely targets for sports betting. There was an unprofitable eighth, but it was sold to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Since hockey is such a big deal in Canada, bettors will wager a lot of money on professional hockey. They’ll be especially generous during live games. The Montreal/Toronto rivalry is, among other things, profitable.
Canadian Football is another professional league that bettors will pour betting money into. The Canadian Football League’s commissioner signed the 2020 letter to the Canadian government. However, he also called for safe sports betting options. Even in the sports betting fervor, league representatives don’t want gaming integrity to be overlooked. A sports betting bill that allowed match-fixing would ruin professional sports in Canada. That takes the fun out of trying to use sports knowledge to get ahead in sports wagers. Professional sports have as much interest in safe gaming as sports betting operators.
But the professional sports landscape wouldn’t be complete without lacrosse. It’s not as big in the States, but Canadians love it. The National Lacrosse League has nine teams, four of which are Canadian. It’s particularly popular in eastern Canada, but it doesn’t enjoy the same mainstream fanbase as leagues like the NHL. However, sports bettors will put plenty of money on lacrosse anyway.
Canadian College Sports Leagues
Canada has its own sprawling list of college sports leagues. Canadians enjoy college sports just like Americans. The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is the United States’ version of the NCAA. The CCAA oversees collegiate sports across Canada and ensures its ten sports are safe and fairly adjudicated.
However, the CCAA has been quiet on the impending sports betting issue. When sports betting was about to become legal in the United States, the NCAA fought against it. The NCAA is even opposed to sports betting on college games now. That same vocal opposition has been absent from Canadian college sports. That may be for two reasons.
First, Canadian college games aren’t as popular in Canada as American college games are in the United States. While Canadian sports scholarships put education first, American sports scholarships put sports first. They say they don’t, but who believes it? Canadian media doesn’t focus on Canadian college sports the way American media focuses on American sports either. The incentives in both systems are just so different that college sports cultures can become total opposites. Canadian college sports may not be vocal about sports betting because they don’t anticipate it to be a big issue.
However, the CCAA’s code of ethics would cover any corruption of the sport as it’s written. It has a rule about athletes performing with integrity, which would allow the CCAA to disqualify student-athletes or officials who gambled on their games. With that ethical groundwork in place, the CCAA doesn’t need to make a big deal about sports betting. Canadian college sports aren’t popular enough to drive revenue, and the CCAA has grounds to enforce anti-gambling rules in its existing documents. So, don’t expect Canadian college sports to become a sports betting staple.
What Canadian Sports Will Be In A Reformed Sports Betting Market
Bettors will probably only see professional sports in reformed Canadian sportsbooks. Amateur sports leagues aren’t stable or consistent enough for oddsmakers to set odds for. So, bettors will likely see these professional leagues:
- Canadian Football
Bettors shouldn’t expect to see Canadian college sports on reformed sportsbooks. Canadian college sports aren’t major events like they are in the United States. While they may be available, bettors shouldn’t count on it. The listed professional leagues are the most likely candidates to see on new Canadian sportsbooks.
Canada Sports Betting FAQs
In most provinces, it’ll probably be 19. But in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, bettors will probably only have to be 18. These ages are going off of casino gambling ages. When Canada’s provinces can regulate sports betting, they will have the final say in their sports betting ages.
Yes. Licensed, regulated sportsbook apps are designed to maintain betting integrity and protect bettor information. Account security and encryption technology are two of the main safety features that bettors will encounter. However, if Canada is like the United States, sportsbooks will be tested for security before they launch. Those controls will be critical to ensuring sports betting is a fun, safe activity.
Canadian provinces regulate their own sportsbooks. When sportsbook companies like DraftKings and FanDuel come to Canada, each Canadian province will govern those companies. The provinces will set the ground rules, and any sportsbooks that become licensed under the Canadian government will have to follow them.
No; however, bettors will have to be in Canada to place sports wagers. Further, bettors will probably need to be in certain provinces to place wagers. If Canadian sports betting is anything like American sports betting, each province will set its own geofences. However, Canada’s provinces will likely be more similar to each other than American states are.
Yes. It’ll be up to each Canadian province to set online sports betting regulations. But after seeing online sports betting’s success in the United States’ largest markets, it’s hard to imagine no province embracing online sports betting. They may be the majority of Canadian provinces, but we’ll see how they embrace sports betting if and when sports betting reform arrives.
If sports betting reform comes to Canada, then yes. DraftKings will certainly be among the first sportsbook operators in Canada. DraftKings’ CEO has expressed interest in expanding to Canada if Bill C-218 passes. For large sportsbook operators, new large markets are exciting opportunities. They’ll move in quickly and settle in for the long run.
More Resources On Canada Sports Betting
Here are some important documents to use to track Canadian sports betting reform:
- Bill C-218: The Conservative-sponsored sports betting bill with the best chance of passing.
- Bill C-13: The Liberal government’s bill that included a provision protecting pari-mutuel horse racing. It stopped pushing the bill when Bill C-218 added the same concession.
- How The Parliament Works: A resource that goes into detail about how Canada’s parliament chambers work. It’s useful for bettors who want to know how close the third reading is to the finish line. Hint: it’s close.
- Lawmaking Flowchart: A quick look at how bills become laws in Canada.