Sports Betting News: CFL Strong Backers of Bill C-218
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Sports Betting News: CFL Strong Backers of Bill C-218

Bill C-218, which would legalize single sports betting in Canada, has been adopted at second reading in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce for further discussion. It's the second time a bill to legalize single-sports betting has found itself in front of the Canadian Senate. A 2015 version died in the Senate when a federal election was called and there's a danger that fate could await Bill C-218.

CFL Interested in the Betting Market

  • Bill C-218 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce for further discussion
  • If passed, the bill would legalize single sports betting in Canada
  • CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie spoke before the Senate in support of the bill

Several big players in the sports world have thrown their support behind Bill C-218, which would legalize single sports betting in Canada. The Canadian Football League went the full 10 yards to show it was backing the bill. CFL (Canadian Football League) commissioner Randy Ambrosie spoke before the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce on Wednesday, June 2.

"This may be one of the single biggest opportunities that the Canadian Football League has ever faced and it couldn't happen at a better time," Ambrosie said during his testimony in front of the Senate. "We've gone through a very challenging environment with the COVID pandemic. We see this as a recipe for quicker recovery as we come out of it."

The league is estimating losses of between $60-80 million due to the cancellation of the 2020 season by COVID-19.

"We don't think we've seen an opportunity for revenue enhancement to any degree like we have seen and we see in this particular Bill C-218," Ambrosie said. "Perhaps a once a generation, the opportunity for revenue enhancement at a time when we desperately need it."

Senators See Value To CFL

Independent Canadian Senator Brett Cotter of Saskatchewan believes that the legalization of single-sports betting via Bill C-218 would be of value to the CFL. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, the province's only pro team, play in the CFL.

"I love the Canadian Football League (but) it does not have the enormous television revenues that the other sports leagues have," Cotter said. "It tends to rely much more on gate receipts and fan interest and I think this would help, although I don't know the dollars and the way it would be of revenue benefit."

Interestingly, former CFL player and commissioner Larry Smith is among the Senators who are putting Bill C-218 under scrutiny this week as it goes before the Senate's standing committee on banking, trade and commerce.

"It's fair to say there's more momentum this time around as opposed to the time five or six years ago," Smith told Canadian Press. "I think there's more of an openness within society as a whole, at least within North America and in some other countries in the world, to be able to recognize that this is a reality of the times we live in."

Senator Swayed by Pro Support

Admittedly not a proponent of legalizing single sports betting when the idea was first broached, Cotter is changing his tune. He's now much more welcoming to the concept. The fact that several of the North American professional sports leagues are expressing their support for the bill is playing a major role in Cotter's change of heart.

"If professional sports leagues see value and safety in the legalization of this kind of betting, it's hard for us not to be supportive," Cotter, the former dean of the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan, told Canadian Press. "They've got more at stake than we senators do on this.

"If they're comfortable they're not damaging their leagues and the integrity of their sports, then I think we should take that as a pretty meaningful statement that we can move this out of the criminal law and into a good regulatory environment that the provinces have done pretty well on with casinos.

"I'm confident with responsible gaming leadership they can do the same with sports betting."

Cotter estimated the chances of the bill passing into law being better than 50-50.

"There is a fair amount of other business that the Senate needs to concern itself with . . . but the window is available if we can move in a timely and responsible way, I think," Cotter said.

Election Unlikely To Hinder Passage of Bill C-218

With just five weeks remaining in the spring session of the Canadian Parliament, some bills may be unable to take the necessary steps required to gain passage into law in that time frame. With a Canadian federal election looming on the horizon, there's always a chance that some of the bills currently in front of the government could die before making it across the finish line before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls for an election.

If Bill C-218 isn't passed by the time both the Senate and House leave for the summer later next month, it could result at the end of the bill if Canadians head to the polls this fall. However, the belief is that Bill C-218 isn't in danger of being allowed to die on the vine.

"The banking committee of the Senate is an honourable committee," Cotter said. "It does its work in a timely way. If it can look at the bill, meet with witnesses and report back in a reasonably expeditious way, there is the time within the Senate agenda for it to be finalized, assuming it's sufficiently supported, and I think it would be."

Bill C-218 looks very likely to pass. Although it is technically a private member's bill from Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, it has the backing of the government. Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a near-identical bill last fall.

The fact that Bill C-218 is already through the Commons and at the committee stage in the Senate, should give it the legs to gain passage. It would require a very surprising move by the Senate to slow this process. Otherwise, the bill figures to have plenty of time to get to a final vote by summer.

Smith, though, cautioned that passage of Bill C-2018 into law is far from a slam dunk.

"Can it be passed? It can be put through," Smith said. "However, we are in a situation where there are other bills in the queue right now, so it's trying to manage the process with limited time.

"If there are amendments made when it comes to the Senate, then those amendments, if they pass they have to go back to the Commons and if the Commons is on recess, it falls through the cracks."