Legalized Sports Gambling in Canada

By Ben Hamill - December 08 2014
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Legalized Sports Gambling in Canada – the C-290 Bill

The issue of legalization and regulation of sports betting was thought to be dead with the failure earlier this year of the C-290 bill that would have expanded the definition of which sports wagers are legal in Canada, and would have set in motion the certification and regulation of sports betting in Canada.

A Shocking Op-ed

However, three weeks ago, the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver, wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the New York Times in which he stated his support for the legalization of betting on professional sports events in the United States.

His argument, in short, is that people find ways to bet on sports events even though it is illegal; that betting is done online at sites that are registered offshore to avoid the American government; that 400 billion USD or more are wagered annually on sports events; and, finally, that much of this money goes to disreputable enterprises such as organized crime.

He continues: sports betting has become a form of entertainment.  Newspapers print information helpful to sports bettors.  Most states support gambling generally through their state lottery and land-based casinos.  Most also provide for legalized betting on horse or dog racing.

Sports Betting in Canada at Present

The law regarding sports betting in Canada is a bit complex.  The law states that sports betting on single games is illegal.  This leaves a loophole through which much gambling money passes: sports betting outfits take bets on a set of games at the same time.  This is called parlay betting.  While parlay betting is popular mainly because it is the only bet many Canadian sports fans can make, it is also understood to be a poor bet.  It is much harder to win a parlay bet than a single-game bet.  So many Canadians find a way to bet on single games.  These gamblers make their bets at sites not licensed in Canada.

The details of regulation make the issue far from simple.  Licensing is straightforward enough.  Blocking technology to ensure that no bet can be made from a url in a country where such betting is illegal is already used by every online casino and sportsbook.  Monitoring wagering so that suspicious betting patterns are identified and investigated can reduce to near zero the temptation to manipulate sports events.  After these very doable processes are in place, however, there remain stubborn difficulties.  How does any sports book guarantee that a bet is being made by someone of legal age to do so?  How can a sportsbook identify problem gamblers?  Finally, how can a sportsbook be expected to effectively educate the public about the perils of sports gambling?

Commissioner Silver has certainly reopened a huge issue not just for gamers but for society at large.  We would like to open our own discussion on this subject.  Here are a few pro and con arguments: first, arguments in favor of legalizing and regulating sports betting in Canada and then some arguments against legalization and regulation.

In Favor of Legalization and Regulation

Legalization can only succeed when it is coupled with strict regulation.

We regulate so many other things, why not regulate sports betting?

Sports betting is seen as an undesirable vice but we allow other undesirable vices such as smoking and consuming alcohol.  Both are heavily taxed and regulated.

Sports betting should be seen as a minor vice which could taxed and regulated as well.

Against Legalization and Regulation

Young people would have access to online sports betting.  We are already having enough trouble making good citizens of our young people.  Legalization could tip the scales against civilization.

Legalization is easy.  As we have seen in too many cases, regulation is hard.  Better not to open that particular Pandora’s Box.

There are already too many legal vices that are nonetheless highly destructive.  Smoking and alcohol consumption are two such vices.  Woe to us if we legalize another such vice.

The amount of money wagered by Canadians on sports would skyrocket if it were easier to wager on games.  This money is better spent elsewhere.

Join the Discussion

The issue is controversial to say the least.  We encourage your participation in a thoughtful discussion of the issue.  Certainly, the issue will not go away.  Hopefully, our forum can contribute to a wise resolution of the issue.