The Government of Canada on Thursday introduced legislation that would decriminalize single event sport betting, signaling a possible end to a four-year battle.
“Strengthening our economy and reducing criminal activity are important to creating a safer and stronger Canada,” David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, said in a statement. “That is why the Government of Canada is acting to decriminalize single event sport betting in Canada so that these activities take place in a safe and regulated environment, while supporting good, well-paying jobs for Canadians.”
Lametti said legalization would take illegal betting profits out of the hands of organized crime and generate revenue to fund health care and education programs.
Under the current Canadian Criminal Code, all forms of gambling are prohibited, with the exception of provincial and territorial “lottery schemes,” betting between private citizens in limited circumstances, and betting regulated by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency on live horse racing.
The definition of “lottery schemes” includes allowing sports betting – but only if the wager is on the outcome of more than one sporting event.
The proposed changes would amend paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to permit provinces and territories the ability to offer single event sport betting products and the “discretion” to manage single event sport betting in their respective jurisdictions, the DoJ said.
Regulated sports betting will be offered both online and in physical facilities.
The Government of Canada added it is proposing to engage with provincial and territorial counterparts and Indigenous communities on gaming “more generally,” including the possibility of gambling being offered by Indigenous communities.
Authorities said they will provide funding to the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addictions (CCSA) to address problem gambling.