Canadian Senate Rejects Amendment to Sports Betting Bill, Vote Set for Tuesday


Canadian senators on Monday turned down by a wide margin an amendment that would have kept lawmakers from giving a final reading to a bill legalizing single-game sports betting in the country’s criminal code.

Canadian Sports BettingCanadian Sports Betting
Canadian Sen. Brent Cotter votes against an amendment to a bill to legalize single-game sports betting in the country. The body is set to vote tomorrow to pass the bill, one of the last steps needed before it can become law. (Image Senate of Canada)

After that victory, supporters called for a vote on the third reading of C-218. That vote is set to take place Tuesday at 3:30 pm ET.

A sincere thank you for your interest, engagement and comments,” tweeted Sen. David Wells, Conservative-Newfoundland and Labrador, after debate ended Monday. “Your voices have been heard in the @SenateCA.”

Should senators pass the bill sponsored by MP Kevin Waugh, Conservative-Saskatoon-Grasswood, it would be the next to the last step needed for the bill to become law. The final step would be the Royal Assent, when the Canadian sports betting bill would become law.

Currently, only parlay sports betting is legal in Canada, although one First Nations group operates a sports betting site in the country.

Kahnawake Amendment Defeated

The amendment before senators Monday was one that would have added language to the bill that would allow First Nations, Canada’s indigenous peoples, to offer sports betting. The bill, as approved by the House of Commons in April, allows the provinces to determine who can operate in their jurisdictions.

Supporters of the amendment say it was needed because the bill did not specifically include indigenous nations as being eligible to offer sports betting. It was pushed by the Mohawk Council of the Kahnawake, a First Nations people that currently offer a single-game sports betting app in the country.

Without the specific mention, the Kahnawake fear they may not be able to operate if provincial governments do not grant them a license.

“This is reasonable in addressing the concerns of First Nations peoples who are seeking an even playing field in keeping with their rights,” said Sen. Marilou McPhedran, Independent Senators Group (ISG)-Manitoba.

Supporters of the bill, though, reiterated their concern that an amendment this close to the summer break would likely end its chances for passage. Parliament is set to adjourn later this week for the summer break, and there’s a chance a call for a new election will take place before lawmakers return in September.

In addition, C-218’s supporters said other First Nations peoples have not expressed the same concerns as the Kahnawake. Sen. Brent Cotter, ISG-Saskatchewan, told his colleagues that all 74 First Nations groups in his province support the bill as is.

Indigenous peoples represent less than 20 percent of the Saskatchewan population but generate half of its gaming revenue, he added.

“This bill represents by any measure, an opportunity for many first nations in my province and other provinces who support this bill… Absent a compelling need to address a serious flaw in the bill, which I do not believe exists. I cannot justify standing in the way of this opportunity to bring jobs and resources to my province,” Cotter said.

The amendment died by a 21-43 vote, with 13 abstentions.

Canadian Sports Betting Bill’s Chances Seem Good

With two amendments voted down since the debate started last Thursday, it appears likely that the sports betting bill will pass the Canadian Senate.

However, some members have expressed concerns about the bill. In addition to indigenous rights and the country’s match-fixing laws, some members have also raised questions about how single-game sports betting may lead to an increase in gambling addiction and other mental health issues.

Because of all those issues, Sen. Vernon White, Canadian Senators Group-Ontario, questioned if the body did a good job in thoroughly vetting the bill.

“This piece of legislation has many tentacles that could have been and should have been looked at more closely,” White said.

According to the Canadian Senate website, there are 105 seats in the chamber, but 15 of those currently sit vacant.

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