Canada’s Journey with Single-Game Sports Betting: A Two-Year Review

September 9, 2023

The Landscape of Single-Game Sports Betting in Canada

Two years have passed since Canada embarked on its journey with single-game sports betting. It was a significant shift, promising potential economic benefits and more betting opportunities for enthusiasts. Yet, as with any major change, it was met with varying degrees of enthusiasm, curiosity, and concern. As we mark this two-year anniversary, let’s dive deep into the developments, gains, and concerns that have arisen.

The Surge in Online Sports Gambling

With the legalization of single-game sports betting in August 2021, there has been a notable uptick in the number of Canadians participating in online gambling. This isn’t just a fleeting trend; it’s a reflection of the global surge in online betting, with a staggering number of 68 million Americans betting on major sports events like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament alone.

The legislative shift, which came into effect with the passing of Bill C-128, not only allowed betting on individual sports games but also ushered in a change in the Ontario legislation. This allowed private operators a foothold in the previously monopolized space.

Economic Gains Across Provinces

The economic imprint of this change is undeniable. Across provinces, sports gambling revenues have shown impressive growth:

  • British Columbia: The B.C. Lottery Corporation reported an increase from $23.9-million in 2020-21 to $31.6-million in 2022-23.
  • Ontario: The province’s iGaming, responsible for overseeing online gambling, highlighted in its 2023/24 first quarter results that sports-related bets accounted for a whopping $2-billion, translating to $138-million of gaming revenue.
  • Atlantic Provinces: The Atlantic Lottery reported a net revenue of $14.8-million in the sports gambling category for 2021-22, showing an increase of $3-million from the preceding year.

While Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis did not present current revenue figures from sports betting, they did shed light on a significant 156.0 per cent year-over-year increase in sign-ups for online gambling.

The Changing Dynamics of Betting

The shift from parlay bets to single-event betting might seem subtle to the casual observer, but it has brought with it a new wave in the form of in-play betting. This change amplifies the betting experience by making it more dynamic. Now, instead of waiting for the end of a match or a game, enthusiasts can place bets during the event, making the process faster and more engaging.

However, this speed and the ability to place multiple bets simultaneously make sports gambling resemble the rapid pace of slot machines. This raises concerns, especially given that slot machines are often categorized as a more harmful form of gambling.

Health Concerns and the Need for Research

The rapid evolution of the betting landscape has left many Canadian researchers worried. Their primary concern? A lack of comprehensive health data on the effects of single-game and in-play sports betting. The last national data, collected by Statistics Canada in 2018, predates the legalization of single-game sports betting, leaving a gap in understanding the present scenario.

Moreover, the nature of in-play betting, which allows gamblers to bet on minute aspects of games, such as the outcome of every pitch in a baseball game, is changing the very essence of sports betting. This shift from a slow-paced, strategic form of betting to a rapid-fire approach necessitates thorough research to understand its long-term effects.

Regulatory Measures in Place

Recognizing the concerns, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced a forthcoming ban on the use of athletes in the advertisement and marketing of online gaming. This move, set to be effective from Feb. 28, 2024, comes in the wake of increased criticism about the prevalence of online gambling advertisements, especially during live sports events.

The Road Ahead

While the economic gains from single-game sports betting are evident, the journey is still in its infancy. As we continue to embrace this new form of entertainment, it’s crucial to balance economic aspirations with the well-being of participants. Comprehensive research, responsible advertising, and informed policy decisions will be pivotal in shaping the future of single-game sports betting in Canada.

In closing, the past two years have been transformative for the Canadian sports betting landscape. The potential for growth is immense, but so is the responsibility to ensure a safe and sustainable environment for all stakeholders.

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