Canadians may still be able to play online poker, but as of this week, they now lag behind their neighbors when it comes to sports betting. And that could make it much tougher for Canada’s gaming industry to stay competitive.

Sports betting
Canada lags behind its American neighbors on sports betting regulations. (Courtesy:

On Monday, the Supreme Court overturned a federal law that banned sports betting in most states,. However, wagering on single games is still illegal in Canada.

While there is worry that the decision could hurt Canadian gaming operators as they lose businesses to offshore and American outlets, there is also hope that the ruling could spur changes to Canadian regulations.

Falling on Deaf Ears

It’s certainly not due lack of trying that Canada hasn’t done anything to modernize its regulations around sports betting.

Paul Burns is the president of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) and says the country has fallen dangerously behind their neighbours.

“It’s unfortunate that Canadian Parliament has had a couple of chances to modernize our gaming laws but chose not to. Provinces requested a simple amendment to our criminal code seven years ago, which would have provided greater regulatory oversight and control to sports wagering to protect consumers, athletes and the integrity of sport. This request has fallen on deaf ears.”

Burn says that not only hurts the public and their insatiable thirst to legally wager on games, but also the operators that are losing huge revenue to offshore operators.

He points out that the government doesn’t get to reap any tax benefits from the gaming activity that is going on regardless of the laws are in place.

The Canadian gaming industry faces the potential for even more lost revenue now that legalized sports betting looms south of the border.

Billions Leaking Offshore

While they may not have the numbers their American counterparts do, Canadians love their sports betting.

The country only has a population of about 36 million people, but they bet an estimated $10 billion every year on sports. The majority of that money, however, is going to offshore operators.

Canadians are allowed bet through government-regulated operations, but single-game betting has been prohibited for decades. And as all good sports bettors know, a parlay is a losing play in the long run.

“Canadians are spending billions of dollars illegally to bet on sports because of the product that they want, and that’s a single-game bet,” says Burns.

Unless the laws change, and that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon, Canada could lose even more business to the US if states start offering single-game bets at brick and mortar casinos. That would be a blow Canadian casinos, whose customers could start heading south to get in on the action.

The good news is that creating a legal landscape for sports betting in Canada would be much straightforward than it was in the US. The CGA is now calling on legislators to make a simple change to the Criminal Code to allow it.

However, it remains to be seen whether there is the political will to get it done.

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