Canadian Sports Betting Laws ‘Mind Boggling,’ in Need of Change Say Politicians and Union Leaders

Politicians and union leaders are the latest to make a push to finally legalize single-game sports betting in Canada.

Member of Parliament Tracey Ramsey is among those who want to see changes to Canadian sports betting regulations. (Image: Blackburn News)

David Cassidy, the president of the Unifor Local 444 union, confronted Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on the topic during a meeting this week.

While acknowledging that gaming law isn’t part of Freeland’s portfolio, Cassidy insisted that the minister bring his message straight to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. That message? Canada’s outdated gaming policy is costing the economy jobs and cash.

“I want you to send the message again,” Cassidy told Freeland, according to Blackburn News. “We’re going to be doing lobbying efforts. It’s going to be front and center because we have a lot of members that are in the hospitality sector that it negatively affects.”

The Michigan Threat

As it stands, Canadians are allowed to wager on sports events through government-sponsored operators, but they have to be parlays, or bets on at least two games. And as any good bettor knows, parlays are simply not profitable plays in the long run, pushing many Canadians to grey-market offshore books instead.

It’s not the first time officials have pushed to change that law. Bills brought forward in both 2011 and 2016 were defeated, but the changing landscape south of the border is creating a new sense of urgency.

In May, the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting, opening the door for states to create their own regulations around sports betting. One of those states is Michigan, just a short trip south of Ontario.

“Right across the ditch, there’s going to be single sports betting,” Cassidy said of Michigan, according to the Windsor Star. “We’re going to be behind once again once Michigan goes forward with it.”

Cassidy’s union represents workers at Caesars Windsor Casino and says single-game sports betting would instantly create 150 new jobs.

This latest push comes after The Canadian Gaming Association called on the NHL to help press for change. The Association estimates that Canadians bet about $14 million per year at offshore sports books, dwarfing the $450 million that’s legally bet with Canadian operators.

Political Support?

New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament Tracey Ramsey was at the meeting and calls it “mind boggling” that the Liberal government continues to oppose any gaming changes.

“We need to be a player in this space,” Ramsey told a reporter form the Windsor Star. “I don’t really understand the resistance to something that would create jobs, not just in our community but across Canada.”

Unlike the US, which required a landmark Supreme Court decision to open the door to sports betting, changing to law in Canada would be relatively simple.

“Just one change of the Criminal Code in one paragraph,” said Cassidy. “This is a decade old file that needs to be addressed.”

Did they make any impression on the powers that be? Minister Freeland was non-committal.

“I heard some interesting things. I’ll go back and reflect on that.”

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