How will Bill C-290 change sports gambling in Canada?

Want to put a couple of dollars on the winner of the Super Bowl? Right now you can't legally bet on just one game in Canada, but a private member's bill on Parliament Hill is close to making it possible.

Single-game bets are coming, but pro leagues have concerns

Casino Windsor and Casino Niagara stand to benefit the most from passage of Bill C-290, a private member's bill that will allow single-game betting in Canada. (Paul Sancya/Canadian Press)

Want to put a couple of dollars on the winner of the Super Bowl? Right now you can’t legally bet on just one game in Canada, but a private member's bill on Parliament Hill is close to making it possible. 

Bill C-290, legislation that would legalize betting on single games, is close to becoming law.

Needing just a third and final reading in the Senate, the bill has caught the attention of professional sports leagues.

Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston spoke to the Senate on Tuesday, arguing that legalized betting on single games would increase the probability gamblers would try to influence the outcome.

But with support from all of the major parties, there seems to be little to stop this bill from passing the Senate. 

An unnamed source cites caution, however. He said there's a real possibility the NBA, NFL and maybe even NHL might think twice before bringing a new franchise up north.

New Jersey recently passed a new state law allowing sports betting on individual collegiate and professional games.

The NCAA, saying it wants to protect the integrity of its game, is now planning on relocating six championships out of New Jersey over the issue.

The NCAA and all four professional sports leagues filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in August trying to stop New Jersey from allowing single-game betting. spoke with Jim Warren, president and CEO of Riseley Gaming Inc., to get a better understanding of the bill. He is part-owner of Canada's only privately owned and operated casino, located in Moncton, N.B.

Why was the bill introduced?

Warren: It was primarily done by the provinces that have border casinos to try and get Americans to cross the border and come over to Niagara Falls and Windsor. That was the original idea and why the request was made to the federal government to make the change.

For years, people in Detroit went to Windsor because there were no casinos there. So when there was competition, people decided to stop going.

There's been a massive decline of Americans crossing the border due to Sept. 11, the mandatory use of passports when crossing the border and the price in gas.

The idea is you could put together a package on Final Four weekend, the World Series, etc. and get Americans to return to Canadian casinos because they can do single-event sports betting instead of multi-event.

How much will the government earn?

Warren: It's not going to be a huge moneymaker, because ProLine is so profitable for Ontario now. It's really about giving Americans incentive to come back to Canada to visit Niagara Falls and Windsor. It’s primarily based on that.

It will repatriate some grey matter betting that happens now on the internet. People will now be able to make that same bet legally. It's not, at the end of day, a huge government windfall, but it’s about creating a fun environment for people to come back to the casinos. 

The government won't earn a lot of money?

Warren: Really, no. When you look at ProLine in Ontario, it's one of the most profitable sportsbooks in the world.

They make so much more money by having the multi-events. It will make more money for the governments, but it's not a huge cash grab. It’s more focused on economic development and protection of jobs on the border cities.

It's more to ensure the border casinos have something to compete with that their American counterparts don't have to offer.

Why are pro sports resistant?

Warren: When you have multi-event betting, when there’s three different outcomes, it's nearly impossible for one-person to affect the outcome. The leagues are doing their due diligence to make sure there's not a situation where one individual or a referee or a manager can make a huge impact.

Now, there's so much transparency with the way gambling works, with the way huge bets are made, with security, etc. 

It's more an understanding on how the system would work and what measures would be in place to prevent bad things from happening. With any change like this, an abundance of caution is a good idea.

I think that if you can put in enough protective measures, you can have single-event betting occur and still not have people engage in criminal activity. In Ontario, right now, you can go on the internet and make the same bet with less regulation.

So really, at the end of the day, there's going to be more measures.

You are going to have to physically go into a casino. You will be on a security camera. Any transaction over $10,000 is logged inside the casinos. So those measures are in place to have transparency and integrity in the games.

If the law is passed, how soon will we see single-event sports betting?

Warren: In 2007, they spent the money in Ontario at Casino Niagara and they have a sportsbook now where you can make ProLine bets in Niagara Falls. Those ProLine bets pay out differently from the same bets you make at the corner store.

It’s a different set of rules and regulations. So the government, I believe, is ready to have a turnkey operation. So once they get permission, it will be months, if not weeks, for them to implement it to the border sites.