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Niagara Falls Mayor Calls for Sports Betting Legalization in Canada

Last week’s US Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal ban on sports betting will have a negative effect on the gaming industry in Canada, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati believes. He urges the government to reconsider its conservative stance on this issue and stop millions of dollars flowing out of the country into offshore gambling operators.

Many casinos in Canada, especially those in border cities such as Niagara Falls and Windsor, will be affected by the legalization of sports betting in the neighbouring United States, Jim Diodati warned in a recent interview to local media. According to him, a large portion of these casinos’ customers has, so far, come south of the border in order to gamble safely and legally in Canada. But the recent SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) decision in favour of New Jersey would change all that, Diodati says. On May 14, SCOTUS ruled that the law prohibiting sports betting is unconstitutional and now, each state is free to legalize this extremely popular form of gambling.

Until recently, Las Vegas was the only one to offer customers betting on single sports events. Despite that, Diodati points out, it was a huge competition to the gaming and sports betting industry in Canada, along with illegal offshore websites. Under Canadian Criminal Code, provincial governments can run lotteries but they cannot offer wagering on single sports events. Punters in the country are allowed to place wagers on multiple events, or parlays. Betting on single matches and games, however, is the preferred way to wager on sports, as parlays decrease customers’ chances of winning.

Diodati says that Niagara Falls has long been supportive of legalizing single-sport betting. In 2012, the House of Commons passed a sports wagering bill, but it was not voted on in the Senate. Mayor Diodati blames senators for Canada’s current situation, in which it cannot compete with neighbouring markets. In 2016, Niagara’s regional council supported amendments to the Criminal Code that would legalize betting on single sports events. Officials in the City of Windsor, Ontario, has also declared their support for the move multiple times.

Devastating Blow for Canada’s Gaming Industry

Jim Diodati joins the increasingly large group of politicians, journalists and industry representatives who call on the Canadian government to approve amendments to the existing law and allow wagering on single sports events. Many experts point out that the United States, which has always been more conservative, has now allowed individual states to make their own decisions regarding sports betting. Canada, which considers itself more progressive and is currently led by a liberal government that even legalized cannabis, still bans this type of gambling.

Meanwhile, Europe has thriving sports betting market worth billions of dollars. Some of the most popular online sportsbooks are European and Canadian punters are able to easily access most of them. It is even easier for sports betting fans to visit illegal and unregulated websites, as well as online platforms in shady jurisdictions which provide customers no protection whatsoever. According to Canadian Gaming Association President Paul Burns, each year Canadian punters wager CA$4 billion on single sports events in overseas online sportsbooks. At the same time, not one Canadian has ever been charged for using offshore betting sites, Burns says.

Although these type of wagers are illegal, the Canadian authorities would rarely prosecute offshore sports betting operators since they claim they servers are based outside Canada. Therefore, the bets are technically not placed in the country. As a result, the Canadian gaming industry is losing sizable revenues that would otherwise fuel the domestic economy in the form of taxes, licence fees, etc. According to Burns, the government should take immediate action if it wants the industry to remain competitive, especially in the long run as some experts believe that in the following five years, at least 30 states in the US would introduce sports betting legislation.