Canada Grapples with Sports Betting Laws, Parlays and DFS

Canadians who don’t watch or bet on sports may not see what the big deal is over current sports betting laws, but for those who do, it’s a topic of heated debate throughout the nation. Why is it that the only bets permitted on sports have terrible odds, requiring parlays of 3+ teams to be legal, yet there’s no opposition in the government to daily fantasy sports (DFS)?

I’m not hopping on the side of DFS prohibition, mind you. I’m stating that, if DFS is perfectly within the limits of the law, why can’t Canadians bet on single sporting events with a point spread, like those offered in Vegas – bets with much better odds for gamblers?

I can already hear the nay-sayers echoing back at me. “No expansion of gambling is a good thing.” … “More betting options will only lead to more problem gamblers.” … “If the odds are so bad, don’t bet on them.”

I get it, and I don’t fully disagree with those sentiments, from a singular prospective. However, a broadened view of the situation reveals an underlying problem. Canadians who want to bet on single-event sports are doing so anyway. Plenty of online sportsbooks, with offices on miniscule islands in the middle of the ocean, are accessible to Canadians, despite their questionable legality.

Research has shown billions of dollars are leaking out of the country to these offshore betting sites every year from Canadian punters, and the situation won’t stop unless the government does something about it.

As of now, there are two possible ways to go…

On the one hand, lawmakers could deem online gambling to be illegal at unauthorized sites, forcing ISPs to find a way to block Canadian’s from accessing those websites. However, the government may not even be within its rights to do so, and ISPs have stated putting the responsibility on their shoulders is not only unfair, but arguably impossible for them to execute.

On the other hand, Canada could legalize single-event sports betting, dishing up licenses, regulating operators, collecting taxes and keeping billions of loonies on Canadian soil, where they belong.

Bill to Legalize Single-Event Sports Bets

C-221 is a bill designed to do just that – omitting restrictions on single-event sports betting in Canada. Proposed by MP Brian Masse, C-221 would have an important line of text that prohibits wagers on “any race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest,” stricken from the current gambling laws.

Sounds easy enough, right? It should have been that easy four years ago when now-retired MP Joe Comartin introduced similar legislation, C-290. That version was actually passed by the House of Commons in 2012, but the Senate failed to take it up, leaving the measure to collect dust for years. Then in 2015 an election was called for, and C-290 – along with all other pending legislation – was instantly extinguished.

Why DFS but no Single-Event Sports Betting?

To the south, the legality of DFS as a ‘game of skill’, as opposed to a form of gambling, has been raised in numerous US states. But in Canada, there’s no open debate as to whether DFS should be outlawed as an unauthorized/unregulated form of gambling.

What makes DFS any more skill-based than single-event sports betting? Yes, DFS bettors draft a roster of players from various teams, and there is certainly some skill involved, but the same could be said of sports betting handicappers who skillfully select a single team to win a sports contest.

Parlays, on the other hand, come with terrible odds and rely much more strongly on luck, since all three (or more) chosen teams have to win in order to receive a payout.

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