Written by Christian P. Gauthier and Craig R. R. Garbe
The list of U.S. states that have legalized sports wagering keeps getting longer. In May 2019 alone, sports betting became legal in Montana, Indiana, Iowa and Washington D.C. In Tennessee, the state's Sports Gaming Act passed its final hurdle on May 24 and is the first in the country to offer online-only sports gambling. Legislation is proceeding in New York, a bill should be introduced in Michigan soon, and more states are expected to follow.
Legalization has been rapid in the United States. It follows the May 2018 United States Supreme Court decision that overturned a federal law prohibiting states from authorizing sports gambling (Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Association et al.). It is now legal or pending in more than a dozen states.
Ontario Calls for Single Event Sports Wagering
Single event sports wagering remains illegal in Canada and is prohibited by the federal Criminal Code. Ontario advocated for sports gambling in its April 2019 budget, and the province's finance minister wrote his federal counterpart asking for an amendment to the Criminal Code.
The calls for legalizing single event sports wagering are not new. Attempts were made by the federal NDP with bills in 2011 and 2016, but both failed. The governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario sent the federal justice minister letters of support for the New Democrat's first bill.
Unions, Sports Leagues on Board Too
In March 2019, the national president of Unifor and the union's local in Windsor, which represents casino workers, wrote an op-ed that appeared in news outlets across Canada. It asked the federal government to allow single game sports betting, citing the threat to jobs in border city casinos in Windsor and Niagara Falls. The commissioners of the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer have all publicly voiced their support as well.
There's a lot at stake. The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that single event sports wagering in Canada is worth $14 billion a year—and that Canadians are increasingly wagering through offshore sports books or illegal bookmakers.
So What's Next?
No legislative action is expected in Canada prior to the Fall 2019 federal election. After that, it will be interesting to see how Ottawa deals with the issue of single game sports wagering as it becomes increasingly legal in the United States, especially in border states.