With the passing of Bill C-218, sports bettors in Ontario will soon be able to bet on single events.
After nearly a decade and two previous legislative attempts, C-218 passed its third reading in the Senate on June 22. The bill, known as the “Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, legalizes single-event sports betting under Canada’s Criminal Code.
Even with widespread support from both government and industry, the bill still faced opposition. During debates, concerns around match-fixing, addiction, and negative impacts for horse racing and Indigenous rights came to light. An amendment tacked onto the bill by the House now protects Canada’s pari-mutuel horse racing industry. But, similar modifications focused on match-fixing and Indigenous rights were unsuccessful, leaving the bill’s passage in question.
Ultimately, though, the sports betting legislation passed comfortably with a final vote of 57-20.
The last step for Bill C-218 was Royal Assent, announced in the House on June 29. Considered by many a formality, approval of the Crown is still necessary for a bill to become law.
Ontario shows its cards
On June 23, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) publicized its intention to introduce single-event wagering provincially.
Only one day after C-218 passed, AGCO’s announcement stressed the importance of its regulatory role in Ontario’s sports betting market.
“As the regulator for all areas of gaming in Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) will have an important role to play in the regulation of single-event sports betting,” stated the release. “Whether through traditional channels, such as casinos, lottery products, OLG channels. Or, within the new competitive internet gaming (igaming) market.”
The addition of legal, online casinos to the Ontario market is certainly part of the plan.
According to AGCO, the commission is closely monitoring the bill’s assent. And, it is ready to act quickly to bring single-event betting to Ontario players as soon as legally sound.
The release also positions Ontario’s regulated market, launching later this year, as grounded in “honesty, integrity, and the public interest.” In preparation for the impending launch, AGCO is developing standards and a regulatory approach for single-event sports betting.
And they’re looking for input.
New online gambling market to launch in 2021
Plans to overhaul online gambling in Ontario first appeared in the Ford Administration’s 2019 budget. The government doubled down in 2020, committing to end Ontario Lotto and Gaming’s (OLG) monopoly by establishing an open market.
In 2021, the development of the new market has really picked up its pace. In March, AGCO released its first discussion paper disclosing early thinking on Ontario’s new online gambling model. Those preliminary thoughts include establishing a subsidiary to conduct and manage the new market independent of AGCO’s regulatory role.
Launch of their new igaming engagement portal followed, along with a draft of the Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming. The portal offers a way for industry stakeholders to stay informed and provide feedback on key aspects of plans for Ontario’s new market.
In the months since AGCO shared thinking and welcomed feedback around the draft Standards and eligibility requirements. Currently, and until July 6, the commission is seeking input around regulatory compliance. Still to come are engagements around sports and event betting, commercial agreements, systems and data, and service experience.
According to a roadmap released in mid-May, AGCO is on step five of a 12-step launch plan. However, that plan was released a full month before Bill C-218 passed last week. The new legal status of single-event wagering means an extra 13th step is needed to develop standards for sports betting.
But, 2021 is already half over, and there is much to be done. Whether AGCO succeeds in launching the new market before the year ends is anybody’s guess.