Put Backs

Would relaxed Gambling Laws benefit Canadian Sports?

Strictly speaking, betting on most sports is technically against the law. We say “technically” because the whole subject is quite a grey area and involves legislation that has never been updated for the digital age.

For many fans there’s one clear way that their favourite sports are made even more exciting – it’s when they also have some money riding on the outcome. In fact, over the last few years, sports betting has become nearly as important for some as the action itself and winning a tidy sum while seeing a favourite team or individual player do well adds to the pleasure immeasurably.

But what many Canadians may not realise is that, strictly speaking, betting on most sports is technically against the law. We say “technically” because the whole subject is quite a grey area and involves legislation that has never been updated for the digital age.

Up until the 1960s all gambling was illegal in the country but an addition to the Canadian Criminal Code permitted certain forms to be introduced as long as they were administered by provincial governments.

To this day, this is the only form of gambling that is officially permitted and it is an offence for any Canadian national to market or offer betting services to other countrymen and women. But what is not covered is whether it’s legal for foreign operators based in other places around the world such as Gibraltar, Malta and the United Kingdom to offer betting services online.

So, operating in this so-called grey zone, it’s estimated that Canadians wager around $4 billion a year with offshore operators, compared with the $500 million a year that goes on province-run sports lottery games.

It’s a huge amount of money so it’s no surprise that many have been wondering why the government hasn’t seen the opportunity to take whatever steps that may be necessary to bring the activity into the mainstream and start raising revenue by taxation, some of which could even be fed back into the sports themselves.

There has even been a move by the NDP MP Brian Masse to introduce a private member’s bill to remedy the situation by legalizing non-parlay betting and allowing the government to tax the revenue that it raises. Of course, this wouldn’t simply relate to sport betting, it would also allow the government to tap into the huge sums being wagered at online casinos too.

Masse’s argument may well have been strengthened recently by the US Supreme Court’s ruling in which it was voted 6-3 to allow sports betting nationwide. This came as a result of a challenge by New Jersey to the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, arguing that Congress had exceeded its authority in passing the Act.

Among the bodies opposed to its repeal were the NFL, NBA and MLB who asserted that it could bring corruption into their sports. But one only has to look to the UK for a very good counter argument to this fact. In recent times the British have really taken sports betting to their hearts with a reported £9.518 billion being spent on it each year but with no lapse in professional standards within the sports themselves.

With all this in mind, the arguments for greater liberalisation of sports betting in Canada do seem compelling. It would clarify the law, generate valuable income for the nation and increase enjoyment for fans immeasurably. So, everyone really would be a winner!

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