Ontario’s provincial gambling monopoly is re-adding National Basketball Association games to its parlay sports betting product after a two-decade absence.
On Friday, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG) announced that its Pro-Line sports lottery would once again offer NBA games starting with the 2016-17 season. OLG COO Greg McKenzie said his group was “thrilled” to be able to offers sports bettors “even more choices for a better gaming experience.”
OLG was forced to drop NBA games from its Pro-Line roster in 1995, the same year the Toronto Raptors expansion franchise began playing, after the NBA expressed unease about betting – even the milquetoast version that Pro-Line offers – being available in one of its host cities.
The NBA forced the British Columbia Lottery Corp (BCLC) to similarly purge NBA games from Pro-Line when the Vancouver Grizzlies joined the league. BCLC ended its NBA ban after the Grizzlies decamped for Memphis in 2001.
Six years ago, reports surfaced that the NBA had softened its stance regarding OLG offering NBA bets via Pro-Line, although those reports ultimately proved false. But the NBA has a new commissioner who has taken a far more pragmatic stance regarding sports betting, and here we are.
By law, Canada’s provincial gambling monopolies are prohibited from offering single-game sports wagers, leaving Canadian bettors with little option but to seek out the real thing via the many internationally licensed online operators serving the Canadian market.
However, Canada’s federal parliamentarians are set to return to work next week, and C-221, the latest legislative attempt to repeal that single-game betting prohibition, will reportedly come up for discussion on Sept. 21.
C-221 has had two of three required readings in the House of Commons but odds are against its passage. The ruling Liberal Party has a strong majority in the House and has officially expressed opposition to C-221’s passage.
Recent media reports indicated that Liberal backbencher Chris Bittle was trying to drum up support for C-221 among his colleagues and lobbying Liberal leaders to allow MPs a free vote on its merits. Like C-221’s sponsor, Bittle hails from an Ontario riding close to the US border, and hopes are high that local casinos will get a tourism boost if sports betting is on their menu.