By Kenneth Williams
On 17 February, the Canadian House of Commons voted to approve the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act of 2021. The bill still needs to be formally approved by the rest of parliament to become law, but overwhelming support from the Commons points to a swift enactment.
The Act specifically regulates single-game betting, which is currently illegal in several Canadian provinces. The majority of gambling legislation in Canada is regional, but the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act will set national precedence and federally approve single-game bets. Several regional laws currently restrict single-game betting, often demanding parleys or combo bets if allowing them at all.
In addition to their traditional counterparts, esports are formally recognised in the wording of the bill. The announcement has already elicited responses from some of the biggest names in esports gambling, with the Esports Entertainment Group among many other major sportsbooks quickly announcing its intention to pursue Canadian customers.
Canadian betting will explode in 2021
The SRSBA passed through the House of Commons by 303 votes to 15. The bill received overwhelming unilateral support from both the Liberals and Conservatives. The economic incentives of regulating sports gambling have become even more attractive after the pandemic. Judging by standard Canadian political timelines, match bets will likely become legal towards the end of the year.
Canada is a very sought-after market for oddsmakers. The country has a rich competitive history across several winter sports, a vested interest in professional USA leagues and a long history of excellence in Valve esports. Some of the most famous players in Dota 2 history hail from Canada, including Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev, Jacky ‘EternaLEnVy’ Mao and Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling. Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken and Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic are both very popular among tactical FPS fans.
Many Canadian sports fans already enjoy esports betting thanks to provincial regulation. Opening up the entire country would remove many of the logistical hurdles and grey areas currently keeping operators at bay.
A lot of provinces only offer sports betting through a national system known as the Pro-Line, which the Atlantic Lottery maintains. Bettors must make multiple bets at a time in most regions, sometimes being forced to parlay. The SRSBA formally legalises single-match bets placed outside of the Pro-Line. This change will start a competition between sportsbooks for millions of new bettors.
What esports betting operators should consider
Canada is an exciting market and one that is similar to the United States, which many sites consider a top priority for expansion. Sites that already operate in legal provinces will significantly benefit from their previous expansion efforts, but new sites shouldn’t pass up such a big opportunity.
Many bookmakers will jump on the chance to enter Canada, but it won’t be as straightforward as simply adding .ca to the end of your website. There’s a general consensus among marketing experts that Canada and the US must be treated differently, but their opinions often conflict when it comes to exactly how. It’s best to follow the marketing examples set by existing Canadian bookies. Particularly eager sites could immediately enter the existing Canadian market in preparation for regulation at the federal level.
Existing betting operators, meanwhile, will enjoy a big advantage when the markets open. An existing user base will be a powerful tool in gaining nationwide popularity. Some betting operators might have Canada on the backburner due to its scattered legality, but a handful of promotions and an advertisement bump could go a long way to establishing a presence. The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act timeline implies that it will be formally enacted this winter, right in the midst of Canada’s most iconic sports seasons and the return of LAN esports.