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Room For Hope With Canada Sports Betting Bill In The Senate

All is not lost for sports betting in Canada despite apparent challenges.

It was just more than a week ago that Kevin Waugh, the bill sponsor for C-218, expressed doubt over the Senate’s ability to pass legislation that would pave the way for single-game sports betting in Canada.

But at least one Senator from Waugh’s home province of Saskatchewan believes that the odds of the bill becoming law are better than the 50-50 set by the Member of Parliament. Independent Senator Brent Cotter acknowledged to the Canadian Press that time was one of the key issues facing passage, but felt confident that the Senate should be able to pull through.

Second reading down

C-218 was read for a second time before the Canadian Senate last week and it passed. The passage of the second reading sends a bill on to committee; in this case, it’s the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce.

The Committee will review the bill line-by-line (which in this case is not much of a task as the entire bill is only a handful of lines of text), perhaps hold a hearing if necessary, evaluate the legislation and then produce a report for the Senate.

More about the committee

The Standing Committee tasked with reviewing the legislation is headed up by Senator Howard Wetston, a member of the Independent Senators Group who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016.

The Committee also has two deputy chairs. One is Larry W. Smith, a Conservative Senator, and former fullback and later CEO for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. Smith is also a former Commissioner of the league and on the board of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The other deputy chair is a long-time Canadian broadcaster and former Chancellor of the University of Guelph, Senator Pamela Wallin, who is part of the Canadian Senators Group.

The rest of the group

There are nine additional members of the Senate Standing Committee that will review the legislation:

Members of the Independent Senators Group include:

  • Senator Diane Bellemare
  • Senator Colin Deacon
  • Senator Tony Loffreda
  • Senator Lucie Moncion
  • Senator Pierrette Ringuette

Members who are members of the Conservatives include:

  • Senator Elizabeth Marshall
  • Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen

There is also one senator each from the Progressive Senators Group (Marty Klyne) and one from the Canadian Senators Group (Jean-Guy Dagenais.)

Does group affiliation mean much?

It is difficult to say if the affiliations of Senators is meaningful. As Waugh flagged previously, he was not sure how a Private Member’s Bill would play out in the Senate.

It is difficult to say if the Senate composition will harm the bill, especially given the broad support that the legislation seems to enjoy.

Coming around on Canada sports betting

Cotter noted that he was not initially in favor of legalizing single-game Canada sports betting, but he has changed his views. The pandemic’s impact on Canadian sports and the aftermath of the pandemic facing the CFL were amongst the reasons that Cotter cited for his change of opinion.

Sports leagues’ support is another positive

Cotter also cited the support of professional sports leagues for why he now views sports betting differently.

After all, the leagues have done a complete 180 from 2012 when there was the initial push to repeal the provision of the Criminal Code of Canada that restricts betting on sports in Canada to parlays.

Time still of the essence

The expectation is that the Senate Standing Committee will get to work this coming week on the report, which will be sent back to the whole Senate. However, there did not appear to be any meetings for the Standing Committee scheduled for the coming week as of Sunday.

While Cotter gave the legislation better odds of passing than Waugh did, there remains a ticking clock to get this done before Senators go home at the end of June. The expectation of a fall election would mean any legislation still pending is wiped clean.

Much-needed money for the CFL

The Canadian Press article cited Cotter and Waugh’s desire to do something that could benefit the CFL. Unlike the NFL, the CFL canceled their 2020 season.

According to Canadian Press sources, the league’s COVID-related losses tally between $60 and $80 million CAD.

More work to be done?

There still remains a fair bit more work to be done before single-game sports betting in Canada is legal. The Senate’s clock is ticking on bill C-218, which not only needs to come out of Committee and receive its third reading, but will then need to go back to the House before the end of June.

All that needs to happen before it can go to the acting Governor-General for Royal Assent.

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