Current federal legislation bans all forms of gambling, subject to certain exceptions
David Lametti, federal justice minister and Canada’s attorney general, introduced a bill on Nov. 26 that would decriminalize single event sport betting.
The proposed amendments to s. 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code would give provinces and territories the power to manage, regulate and license single event sport betting, meaning betting on the outcome of a single sporting game with the exception of horse racing, in their respective jurisdictions.
Currently, the Criminal Code bans all forms of gambling, subject to certain exceptions, which include the lottery schemes of provinces and territories, betting between private citizens under specific circumstances, and betting regulated by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency.
Even if the proposed legislation is passed, the federal government, through the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency which is under the purview of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, would continue to supervise and regulate horse racing, including pari-mutuel betting, that involves an exchange of money between the bettors, minus a percentage of the bet devoted to the racetracks and the federal and provincial governments.
The proposed legislation aims to allow Canadians to place their bets in a safe and regulated environment through online methods or in physical facilities, and to transfer the betting profits from the hands of organized crime to their respective provinces and territories, which may then use these betting revenues in the same ways that other lottery revenues are being utilized, such as financing for healthcare or education programs and services.
According to the Canadian Gaming Association, an estimate of $10 billion is spent annually on single event sport betting that is illegally conducted through organized crime, while an estimated $4 billion is spent annually via offshore internet sites that are not subject to provincial regulation.
The legislation, if passed, seeks to promote well-paying jobs for a stronger economy, the government said in its news release. The proposed changes address calls by labour leaders, including in communities along the Canada-U.S. border, after numerous border states introduced similar amendments.
“These changes also create the opportunity to work with Indigenous people to strengthen their participation in the gaming industry,” said Lametti in the news release. The federal government is planning to engage with Indigenous communities, as well as provinces and territories, that are interested in participating in a discussion on gaming and on the regulation of gambling.