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Ottawa to announce single-sports betting details on Thursday

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·4 min read
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Canadians could find out when they can start legally wagering on single sports events on Thursday. (AP Photo/Larry MacDougal)
Canadians could find out when they can start legally wagering on single sports events on Thursday. (AP Photo/Larry MacDougal)

Ottawa is set to reveal details of its plan to enact single-sports betting in Canada on Thursday at an event in Niagara Falls, Ont., according to sources who spoke with Yahoo Finance Canada.

Attorney General David Lametti is expected to spell out when the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, legislation that ends Canada’s long-standing ban on placing bets on individual sporting events, will come into effect.

Bill C-218 received royal assent on June 29, but has sat idle in recent weeks without a date to “come into force” from the Prime Minister’s cabinet.

The legislation permitting provinces to regulate new forms of sports gambling has been hotly anticipated by provincial lottery corporations, online sportsbooks, and land-based casinos eager to tap into a lucrative market currently dominated by offshore online bookmakers.

A spokesperson for Lametti’s office declined to give details about the announcement, but confirmed the minister will be attending an event set for Thursday in Niagara Falls, a popular tourist destination for casino gamblers.

Paul Burns, head of the trade group for Canada’s casino and gaming industry, says the government could enact the C-218 legislation as early as tomorrow, or set a future date when it will come into force.

The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA), has criticized Ottawa for not setting a date to start legal betting on single sports events despite more than 40 days passing since Bill C-218 became law. The CGA estimates that more than $1 billion has flowed from Canadian bank accounts to illegal sportsbook operators since C-218 received royal assent.

The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act's potential to steer billions of dollars in bets away from offshore sportsbook operators was among the top selling points for lawmakers as the bill worked its way through Parliament.

Jack Cunningham, program director at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy says the act’s lag between royal assent and coming into force is not unprecedented. However, he notes that royal assent typically includes a date for the law to take effect, which was not the case with C-218.

Scott Burton, CEO of Vancouver-based FansUnite Entertainment (FANS.CN), says anticipation for a snap federal election factored into his expectations for more details coming out about the timing of single-sports betting.

“There is some concern about an election getting called and the delay/impact that would have. I think the government will want to have this done before an election, and before the NFL [season] kicks off,” he said in an email. “I expect we will hear a date on C-218 in the coming days, maybe as early as this week.”

On Tuesday, Kevin Waugh, the Conservative MP who backed the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act as a private members bill in the House of Commons, called on the government to implement the new law.

“This is just another example of the Trudeau Liberals choosing to implement the laws they like, while delaying the ones they don’t,” he said in a released statement.

Waugh and Burns each say support for new forms of legalized sports betting spans political parties, unions, chambers of commerce, industry stakeholders and communities where casinos are major employers, like Niagara Falls, Ont. and Windsor Ont. Bill C-218’s critics in the Senate raised concerns about the rights of First Nations, and how the change may impact match-fixing in sports.

Anticipation for the start of Canada’s single-sports betting market has prompted deals and strategic hires in recent weeks. Most notably, Penn Gaming’s (PENN) US$2-billion cash-and-stock bid for Toronto-based Score Media and Gaming (SCR.TO), a deal highlighting significant interest from big U.S. gaming firms in the Canadian market. 

Meanwhile, Australia-based PointsBet (PBH.AX) is building up its Canadian bench. In July, the company hired a former executive with media and telecom giant Rogers Communications (RCI-B.TO) to lead its Canadian operations. PointsBet also recently brought on Nic Sulsky as its Canadian chief commercial officer. Sulsky helped launch the American fantasy sports giant Monkey Knife Fight, which was sold to Bally’s (BALY) in January in a US$90 million deal.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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