Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 155, Number 18
SI/2021-56 September 1, 2021
SAFE AND REGULATED SPORTS BETTING ACT
P.C. 2021-874 August 11, 2021
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, pursuant to section 3 of the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, chapter 20 of the Statutes of Canada, 2021, fixes August 27, 2021 as the day on which that Act comes into force.
(This note is not part of the Order.)
This Order fixes August 27, 2021, as the day the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (S.C. 2021, c. 20) comes into force.
The objective of this Order is to fix a date for the coming into force of the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (the Act). The Act amends the Criminal Code, enabling provinces and territories to conduct and manage single event sports betting with the exception of horse racing, which would remain the responsibility of the federal government.
The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act was reinstated in the House of Commons on September 23, 2020, as Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting). The bill received royal assent on June 29, 2021.
In Canada, all forms of gaming and betting (“gambling”) are prohibited unless specifically permitted. Section 207 of the Criminal Code allows provinces to conduct and manage lottery schemes, and subsection 207(4) sets out the definition of a “lottery scheme.” That definition, broadly speaking, includes activities where someone pays money for the chance to win a prize. Some types of gambling are excluded from the definition of permitted lottery scheme, and are outlined in paragraphs 207(4)(a) to (c). One of those exclusions is that a province cannot conduct or manage betting on the outcome of a single sport event.
The Act removes exclusions found in paragraph 207(4)(b) relating to single event sport betting. The exclusion that remains relates to “bookmaking, pool selling or the making or recording of bets, including bets made through the agency of a pool or pari-mutuel system, on any horse-race.”
These amendments to paragraph 207(4) of the Criminal Code permit provinces and territories to conduct and manage single event betting on any sporting event, except horse racing which will be maintained by the federal government.
This means that once the Act is in force, provinces and territories will be able to offer gaming products in relation to single event sports betting; for example, betting on the outcome of a single hockey, football, basketball or baseball game. The federal government would continue to be responsible for pari-mutuel (that is, pooled) betting in relation to horse racing.
The amendments respond to calls from labour leaders, particularly in communities along the Canada–United States border, following similar changes made in a number of border states.
This Order makes it clear for Canadians when the amendments to the Criminal Code through the Act come into force.
These amendments to the Criminal Code give provinces and territories the discretion to conduct and manage single event sport betting in their respective jurisdictions and offer Canadians an opportunity to place bets in a regulated environment either online or in physical facilities.
The revenues generated from this type of gambling would go directly to the provinces and territories offering such products, and could be used by them to fund programs and services in areas such as health care and education, as they currently do with other lottery revenues.
The Canadian Gaming Association has estimated that currently the Canadian gaming industry totals $17 billion annually, with $9 billion returned to provincial and territorial governments. They further note $4 billion is wagered annually through offshore online sports betting platforms. The gaming industry in Canada supports over 180 000 jobs.
The decriminalization of single event sports betting in Canada is, therefore, expected to have a significant positive impact on the Canadian economy because it is expected that Canadians will wager on products offered in Canada once it is legal to do so.
On April 20, 2021, the Minister of Justice launched a multi-part engagement strategy on Bill C-218 and more generally on the regulation of gaming with provincial and territorial governments, and with Indigenous Nations, communities and organizations. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food recently launched an engagement process with her provincial and territorial counterparts and with the horse racing industry.
Information and feedback provided to date demonstrate broad support for the decriminalization of single event sports betting from provinces and territories, labour leaders and the gaming industry.
Some Indigenous Nations, communities and organizations have indicated their support for the decriminalization of single event sports betting. At the same time, many are concerned that the Act and, indeed, the existing legal framework governing the regulation of gaming in Canada not only fails to consider their specific interests but intentionally excludes them. Some Indigenous Nations and communities would like to enter into agreements directly with the federal government to enable them to directly offer gaming in the same manner as provinces. Almost all Indigenous partners strongly support substantive discussions with the federal government on the regulation of gaming.
Provinces are taking steps to implement single event sports betting in their jurisdictions once the Act is in force. For example, on July 6, 2021, Ontario announced it is creating a new entity, iGaming Ontario, that will conduct and manage new online game offerings in the province. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation is also preparing to offer single event sports betting through PlayNow.com, an online gaming website it launched in 2004.
The gaming industry in Canada supports these changes and has repeatedly expressed concern that the prohibition on single event sports betting in Canada has resulted in billions of dollars in revenue being diverted elsewhere, including to the United States where single event sports betting is legal. Similarly, a June 2020 joint statement from the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer expressed support for amendments to authorize provinces to offer betting on single sporting events. Labour organizations representing casino workers are supportive of legalized single event sports betting.
Criminal Law Policy Section
Department of Justice Canada