Home>>Business>>Rogers, NHL, CFL among those backing single-game sports betting bill 

Rogers, NHL, CFL among those backing single-game sports betting bill 

Need to re-engage fans and attract new ones after devastation of pandemic

Article content

A bill that would legalize single-game sports betting in Canada is being backed by some big names, such as Rogers Communications Inc. and the National Hockey League, who argue that the legislative change could provide a boost to oversight, fan interest and the pandemic-stricken economy.

The NHL had previously opposed single-game sports betting in Canada. However, “the landscape in North America has changed,” said Keith Wachtel, the league’s chief business officer and senior executive vice president of global partnerships, during a virtual meeting of the House of Commons justice and human rights committee on Tuesday.

Leagues are now increasingly embracing sports betting, particularly in the wake of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that has allowed legal wagering to flourish south of the border. The NHL, for instance, recently announced a partnership with Australia-headquartered PointsBet Holdings Ltd., a global sportsbook operator, that allows for gambling content to be included in live broadcasts of hockey games.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“First, we’re simply adapting to the evolving legal landscape,” Wachtel told MPs on the committee. “But second, the marketplace is changing dramatically, and as such, we’ve been working collaboratively with all the stakeholders. There’s been extensive technological innovation, increased partner sophistication, and perhaps more importantly, I think a true understanding of how a regulated, legal sports market can better promote responsibility and integrity versus a non-regulated market.”

Officials from the NHL and other organizations were appearing before the committee to talk about Saskatchewan MP Kevin Waugh’s Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.

Waugh’s private-member legislation would amend the Criminal Code to allow for provincial governments, or entities that they license, to offer betting on a single sporting event, such as a football game or boxing match. Single-event wagers are currently illegal in Canada — forcing bettors to correctly predict two outcomes in order to win, known as a “parlay” bet —  except via the “pari-mutuel” model used for horse racing.

Previous efforts to legalize single-game betting in Canada have fallen short, partly because of the lack of support from professional sports leagues worried about match-fixing and other potential issues. Now, however, legalization is being backed by leagues such as the NHL, as well as companies, provinces and organized labour.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

PointsBet and other gambling firms are eyeing the Canadian market and its possible legalization of single-game betting as part of their expansion plans. Legalization is also being pitched as a way for governments to tap into the billions of dollars Canadians are betting at offshore websites and illegal sportsbooks, as well as a potential economic lifeline for sectors that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rogers broadcasts hockey games and other events on its Sportsnet network, in addition to owning the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. It explained in a submission to the justice committee that its sports-and-media arm has an interest in single-game betting “from a fan engagement perspective.”

“Revenues from sports betting as a result of C-218, generated for Rogers through advertising or other experiences, will support jobs and further enhance entertainment options for all Canadians,” the company said.

Rogers recommended the House of Commons pass Bill C-218, and do so quickly, “in recognition of the uncertainty surrounding the current parliamentary environment,” wherein no one party has a majority of seats. The company also noted that the “broad” support for overturning the single-game betting ban extends to the professional sports leagues themselves.

The NHL, Canadian Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer did all previously voice support for single-game betting. The CFL had to cancel its 2020 season as well because of the COVID-19 pandemic, turning betting into even more of an interest for the league.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“Our need to recover and rebuild from the pandemic is expected to extend beyond the current crisis and into future years,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie wrote in a submission to the committee. “This has only heightened our desire to find new and innovative ways to engage the interest of our traditional fan base and, just as importantly, attract new fans. This is one of the major reasons we are advocates for Bill C-218.”

Bill C-218 has garnered wide political support, including a vote in favour from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government introduced similar legislation that has since been frozen in Parliament because of C-218’s progress. There are, however, concerns around gambling addiction, the rights of Indigenous people and the effects legalization legislation could have on the horse-racing industry — among other considerations, such as match manipulation — that may be addressed before C-218 does gain final approval.

The now-stalled bill introduced by the Liberal government would have allowed provinces to regulate and license single-event sport betting on anything except horse racing, which would have remained under federal jurisdiction. That nuance is absent from Bill C-218, prompting members of the horse-racing industry to push for an amendment, in addition to the right to offer “historical” horse racing, in which gamblers can bet on past races that are anonymized beforehand.

“I am in favour of single sports betting, but if not done correctly, it could be devastating to our industry, and the many jobs within the agriculture and rural communities,” said Sandy Hawley, a legendary jockey, during Tuesday’s meeting.

Financial Post

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter:

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Please disable Adblock!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: