Legal News: Optimism Growing That Bill C-218 Will Be Passed This Week

There is cautious optimism within the Canadian government that Bill C-218, which would legalize single sports betting across Canada, will be passing through third reading in the Senate before the end of the current session of Parliament, perhaps as early as this week. The current session of Parliament is set to conclude on June 25, so the bill must be passed before that deadline, or be picked up again when the fall session begins in September.

Canadians waiting for third reading

  • Senators are cautiously optimistic that Bill C-218, which would legalize single sports betting in Canada, will be passed soon
  • Some in the Senate believe it could happen as early as this week
  • The current session of the Canadian Parliament concludes on June 25

Tuesday could prove to be a historic day for sports betting in Canada. Bill C-218 is up for the third reading in the Senate. Also known as the Safe And Regulated Sports Betting Act, Bill C-218 would legalize single spots betting from coast to coast in Canada.

If passed, Bill C-218 would go forward for Royal Assent from the Governor-General’s office. If Royal Assent is granted, the bill then becomes law.

Senator David Wells, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, is beginning to believe that the finish line will soon be crossed by Bill C-218.

I’m cautiously optimistic,” Sen. Wells told the National Post. “I never want to say this is a done deal until it’s a done deal. I’ve seen too many times where I thought things were a given and it didn’t work out that way . . . but I’m cautiously optimistic on what’s got widespread support among my colleagues and among Canadians.”

A Simplistic Bill

One aspect that proponents of the bill feel is helping it move forward so steadily is that C-218 is not a complicated bill. Simply stated, it is an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to sports betting.

Currently, it is illegal under the Canadian Criminal Code to place a wager on a single sporting event. Parlays – combination wagers on two or more sporting events – are legal, though. In essence, Bill C-218 isn’t seeking to write new laws. The objective of the bill is to amend current law.

It’s that simplicity that is helping to move the bill along through the necessary steps toward legalization. In fact, the bill has reached the third reading in the Senate without a single amendment being made to its contents.

Should Bill C-218 get through the third reading in the Senate without any amendments, there’s no need for it to be returned to the House of Commons for further debate. The bill would go directly to the Governor-General’s office to be ratified via Royal Assent.

Changing Landscape

The discussion over the issues dealing with single-sports betting this time around is really no different than in past debates when similar bills to legalize single-sports betting failed to navigate the parliamentary process.

“I’ve been at it for 11 years,” Paul Burns, chairman of the Canadian Gaming Association, told the National Post. “The conversation, funny enough, a lot of it’s the same: the need for regulation, oversight, player protection, bringing economic benefits within the country.”

This time around, the landscape surrounding single-sports betting in Canada has shifted dramatically toward a supportive nature. The most significant development in this regard that seems to have impacted the hearts and minds of people involved in this debate was the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize sports betting in that country.

“You’re seeing the advertising and promotions, (NHL legend) Wayne Gretzky being signed by Bet MGM (as a brand ambassador),” Burns said. “It shows up on people’s TVs, it shows up on their streaming feeds. The United States has embraced this.”

So have the major sports leagues upon which the majority of single sports wagers in Canada will be placed. The NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, CFL and NASCAR are among the major pro sports entities that were once steadfastly resistant to all forms of gambling. This time around, they’ve all thrown their support behind the cause, recognizing the benefits that they can gain by partnering with the major betting companies.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport is another supporter of Bill C-218, as long as stout safeguards from regulatory bodies are in place. “The detection of match-fixing affecting Canadian sport cannot be achieved if gambling is taking place overseas on regulated or unregulated sites,” they noted in their submission to the Senate.

Some Resistance Evident

Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti of the ruling Liberal Party tabled a government bill that would legalize single-game betting last fall. However, for procedural reasons, the bill making its way through Parliament is a near-identical private member’s bill that was put forward by Conservative MP Kevin Waugh of Saskatchewan.

Not every entity is in lockstep matching in support of Bill C-218. Native groups who control a significant portion of the gambling that is currently offered in Canada are concerned about how their interests will be protected going forward if Bill C-218 becomes law.

What’s The Next Step?

Should optimism prevail and assuming Bill C-218 makes it through the third reading in the Senate, the key date on the calendar remains June 25. As long as the bill is placed into the hands of the Governor-General’s office to await Royal Assent before the end of this session of Parliament, it can be passed into law.

Canadian Chief Justice Richard Wagner is currently tasked with performing the duties of the office as administrator of Canada.

If the bill is moved forward, chances are strong that single sports betting could be available in all Canadian provinces by the fall of this year.

However, if the bill is not moved on for Royal Assent before the end of this parliamentary session, then all bets are off. The debate would resume when the fall session convenes in September. However, should a federal election be called prior to that date, then the bill would die and the entire process would go back to step one.