Canada’s single-game sports betting plans have failed to convert after legislators voted down the measure.
Wednesday saw a vote in the House of Commons on C-221, the private members’ bill introduced in February by New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse. The bill sought to scrap a single line of the Criminal Code that restricts provincial gambling monopolies from offering anything other than parlay sports wagers.
Sadly, the vote was 156-133 against C-221’s passage. A couple dozen members of the ruling Liberal party voted in favor of the bill, against the wishes of party leaders, who formally opposed C-221 in April, despite having voted in favor of an identical bill (C-290) in 2012 when they were still in opposition.
Earlier this month, word circulated that Liberal backbencher Chris Bittle was pushing his leaders to permit a free vote on C-221. He got his wish, but Bittle – whose constituency is, like Masse, is in a city close to the US border and thus hoped legal sports betting would draw US tourists – evidently failed to convince enough rank-and-file Liberals to publicly reject their leaders’ stance.
Before the vote, Masse said he expected bipartisan support for C-221, and was feeling “more confident this time around,” referring to C-290 having passed a House vote only to die in the Senate after an extremely rare display of senatorial backbone.
C-221’s failure likely spells an end for the push to bring single-game sports betting to the provincial monopolies for years to come. The Liberals are only a year into their mandate, and Masse was only able to introduce his bill because he won a parliamentary lottery that determines which private members bills will be considered during any legislative session.
Canada’s provincial gambling monopolies have long chafed at their parlay wagering restrictions and the poor payouts that encourage more discerning punters to wager with the many internationally licensed online gambling sites that serve the Canadian market.
This frustration has led the monopolies to investigate legal means of blocking Canadian punters’ access to international sites, despite the widely held legal opinion that so long as these companies maintain no physical presence within Canada, they aren’t contravening the Criminal Code.