On February 17, 2021, the House of Commons overwhelmingly passed the second reading of Bill C-218, which seeks to decriminalize sports betting on single events, with 303 votes in favour of the bill and 15 opposed. The current prohibition on single-event sports betting is pursuant to section 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which prevents this type of “lottery scheme”. Bill C-218 is a private member’s bill that was introduced in February 2020 by Kevin Waugh, Conservative Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Grasswood.
The current sports betting regime only allows Canadian entities to book bets on the outcome of multiple events, which is known as parlay bets. For instance, a bet can be made that both the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs will win their respective games, and to win this bet, both teams must win. However, betting solely on the Canucks to win, is not yet permitted.
The proposed legislative change would allow private and public Canadian entities to tap into a multi-billion dollar segment of the sports betting industry. According to the Canadian Gaming Association, an estimated $14 billion is spent by Canadians on sports betting through the black market and offshore online gaming outlets, which allow for single-event betting. Conversely, only $500 million is wagered by Canadians through Provincial gaming lottery retailers, which cannot offer single-event betting.
This proposed change to the Criminal Code follows the United States Supreme Court which in May 2018 overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, empowering each State to freely govern and regulate sports betting within their jurisdiction. Since then, nearly half of all States have legalized sports betting and launched betting platforms in some form. Although the changes proposed by Bill C-218 are an amendment of Federal law, the implementation and regulation of betting on single-events would similarly be conducted by each Province.
After about a decade of unsuccessful calls to reform the legislation in Canada, there is strong momentum that suggests that single-event sports betting will be legalized. Now that Bill C-218 has passed its second reading in the House of Commons, the remaining steps before the law is amended are as follows:
- Committee stage – the bill is put before a legislative committee to approve or propose amendments to the bill. At this stage, experts and witnesses may be called to provide their views on the bill.
- Committee report stage – all members of the House of Commons will consider and debate on the proposed amendments, if any.
- Third reading – this is the final stage a bill must pass in the House of Commons. If the bill passes the third reading, it is sent to the Senate for consideration.
- Senate – at this stage, the Senate will either adopt the bill or propose amendments for further consideration by the House of Commons.
- Royal Assent – if the bill is adopted by the Senate, it will require Royal Assent by the Governor General of Canada to be enacted as law.
Stay tuned for further updates from Owen Bird regarding the progress of Bill C-218 as it continues to take major strides through Parliament. Please contact Sameer Kamboj of Owen Bird (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions regarding the proposed change in law.
 Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), 1st session, 43rd Parliament, 2000.
 Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c. C-46, s. 207(4)(b).
 Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018).