May 14, 2018 11:10 pm
Updated: May 15, 2018 11:38 am

U.S. overturning ban on sports betting means Canadian gaming could fall behind; experts

In this Jan. 14, 2015 file photo, odds are displayed on a screen at a sports book owned and operated by CG Technology in Las Vegas.

AP Photo/John Locher
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A U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a decades-long ban on sports betting might make it even harder for Canada’s gaming industry to compete, experts say.

The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in a 6-3 ruling on Monday, a decision which several organizations quickly encouraged Canada to mimic. PASPA was first enacted in the U.S. in 1982, and over a dozen U.S. states have since enacted legislation to allow sports betting.

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The Canadian Gaming Association, whose been involved in two previous attempts to amend Canada’s Criminal Code to allow single-event sports wagering, hailed the decision as a sign that the Canadian government should reverse its domestic ban on sports betting.

“Canadians are wagering in excess of over $4 billion per year, through offshore online sites. And an additional $10 billion through organized crime essentially. And they’ve chosen those routes because that’s the product they want,” said Paul Burns, president of the Canadian Gaming Association.

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In addition, another bill was tabled before the Trudeau government, but due to what Burns cites as “political reasons,” the bill was defeated early on in the House of Commons. Beyond national amendments, Canadian provinces (who’ve had jurisdiction over gaming since 1985) also requested an amendment to the Criminal Code seven years ago, which would have provided greater regulatory oversight and control to sports wagering to protect consumers, athletes and the integrity of sport.

In addition, another bill was tabled before the Trudeau government, but due to what Burns cites as “political reasons” the bill was defeated early on in the House of Commons. Beyond national amendments, Canadian provinces (who’ve had jurisdiction over gaming since 1985) also requested an amendment to the criminal code seven years ago, which would have provided greater regulatory oversight and control to sports wagering to protect consumers, athletes, and the integrity of sport.

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However, Burns notes that the request has “fallen on deaf ears.”

Major sports leagues have traditionally come out publicly against the federal legalization of sports betting, often citing “integrity of sport” and an increased risk of match-fixing as reasons for objections.

The NFL, for example, has strongly resisted the motion.

The league has asked Congress to implement a “core regulatory framework” for sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.

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“The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute,” the league said in a statement. “Congress has long recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting,” the NFL said in a statement.

Burns, however, counters that Canadians and Americans are already betting on sports games offshore – if the practice was legalized, it could then be regulated and policed.

“I think there’s perceptions that I think are misplaced that more betting will lead us to more match fixing, and we’ll struggle with the integrity of our game. To the professional leagues I say, ‘Well people are betting on your games all over the world. What are you doing now?”

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In addition, he notes that Canadian gaming corporations run the risk of losing not only losing customers to the United States, but losing businesses to the U.S. as well.

“We’re seeing that there’s a fairly robust marketplace, there’s good business here… There’s a number of Canadian companies that are offering sports-betting services. I think you may see a lot of those companies gravitate towards the United States.”

One Canadian sports company has already applauded the ruling. The Toronto-based news app, theScore, which recently began exploring the Fantasy Sports market, released a statement in support of the decision on Monday afternoon.

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“This is a huge victory for sports fans across the United States. Sports betting has long been part of theScore’s DNA,” added CEO John Levy. “The ruling unlocks exciting opportunities and we are uniquely positioned to deliver amazing fan experiences on mobile and in-game as the betting market develops,” said Levy in a statement.

While this ruling means Canada no longer has the opportunity to get ahead of the U.S. in the sports-betting marketplace, Burns fears Canada will fall further behind if we don’t follow suit.

“With the federal government choosing not to enact this, the illegal wagering just keeps flowing. [In 2011] we missed out frankly on border communities, such as Niagara Falls that could have had an incredible advantage in their gaming market in bringing people into Canada. The economic benefits that go with that are gone,” Burns explained.

He went on to say that today, “there’s no tax revenue. The profits from gaming flow back to the provincial governments, which help pay for health care and education, and that’s not happening.”

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