Ontario Premier Doug Ford Wants to Legalize Sports Betting in Canada
Ontario Premier Doug Ford wants to modernize the gambling laws of his province, especially in the wake of liberalization of sports betting in the United States. Doug Ford (pictured: right) says he wants to make it legal for Canadian gambling sites to take sports bets, much like their American counterparts can.
In the opinion of Ontario’s premier, legalization would make it easier for state-run operations like Loto-Quebec to compete against foreign competitors. Canadians spend roughly $110 million a year on single-game sports bets.
The figure, which is provided by Casino Reports, does not include the potential gaming revenues from online slots, online poker, and other forms of Internet gambling.
Canada’s gambling laws are somewhat complicated. Though the provincial governments oversee gambling inside their borders, it is the national Criminal Code of Canada which governs Canadian gambling.
With that in mind, he wants the Ottawa government to modernize Canada’s gambling laws.
Vic Fedeli Supports Legal Sportsbooks
Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli (pictured: left) also believes an update is in order. According to the Toronto Sun, Fedeli wrote his counterpart in the national government, the federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, asking him to support an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada which would legalize single-game sports wagers.
In the letter, Vic Fedeli said that over a dozen US states now support legal sports betting and over a dozen others have introduced bills that would legalize bookmaker businesses through land-based casinos and racetracks. Fedeli asserts that Canadian provincial government are losing significant revenues by not emulating US states.
Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting
To make proper changes to the Criminal Code, Fedeli suggested Bill Morneau to seek changes to the part labeled “Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting” of Section VII of the Criminal Code to Canada.
By updating the “Disorderly Houses” clause, provincial governments and territories could regulate their own sports betting laws.
Gary Bettman Supports Legal Sports Betting
One prominent figure who agreed with Doug Ford and Vic Fedeli is Gary Bettman, the longtime commissioner of the NHL. Bettman recently said that Canada needs to update its laws to create “a level playing surface for sports betting is in the best interest of the NHL’s sports betting landscape”.
Part of Gary Bettman’s concerns is that US-based NHL hockey clubs can sign partnerships with casinos and sportsbook operators. Also, legal sports betting increases fan interest and general interest in sports like NHL hockey. Both give NHL clubs more resources to compete in their sport.
Online Gambling Next?
If Canada’s national leaders were to legalize sports betting, the next question would be whether online gambling would follow next. Offshore online casino, poker site, and sportsbook operators generate tremendous revenues from Canadian players.
Existing in a gray area, these operators can accept Canadian real money players. In most parts of Canada, legal and licensed operators cannot do the same. Once again, a modern update to the laws would give licensed Canadian gaming operators a chance to compete on a level playing field.
Canadian Online Gambling History
Canada has a storied history in the online gambling industry. Isai and Mark Scheinberg, a Canadian father and son team, founded PokerStars, the most successful online poker site in the world. Operating out of the Isle of Man, the two eventually sold their company in 2014 for $4.9 billion.
Cryptologic, which created the first multi-player online casino games in 1998, was founded by a pair of Canadians in their parents’ garage in 1995. Calvin Ayre founded Bodog, the world famous online casinos, bookmaker, and poker site. Bodog also spawned Bovada, which remains one of the top gaming sites in North America.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission, located across the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal, has been one of the leading licensing authorities in the online gambling industry for the past 20 years. Though it no longer licenses operators that accept play from New Jersey (and thus lost some licensees), the Kanhawake Reservation is home to the servers of many popular online gambling sites.