Sports betting laws open up in Canada today. Who’s taking new types of bets?

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B.C Lions wide receiver Manny Arceneaux (84) straight arms Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Demond Washington (7)  during the first half of their CFL football game in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ben Nelms
B.C Lions wide receiver Manny Arceneaux (84) straight arms Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Demond Washington (7) during the first half of their CFL football game in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

Canadian sports fans can legally put money on single events like Saturday’s CFL football game between the B.C. Lions and the Ottawa Redblacks, now that provinces have the authority to regulate new forms of betting. But they won’t be doing it via mobile apps from companies like Score Media and Gaming (SCR.TO)(SCR) or DraftKings (DKNG) just yet.

Justice Minister David Lametti set Aug. 27 as the day Canada would end its long-standing requirement for wagers to be spread across multiple games and matches at a press conference staged at an Ontario casino on Aug. 12.

The tweak to Canada’s Criminal Code is a game-changer for the country’s casino and gaming industry, as well as provincial lottery corporations. Each have reportedly missed out on billions in revenue as Canadian sports fans flocked to offshore sports betting websites offering less restricted action. 

So, where can a law-abiding Canadian find some single sports betting action? The answer depends on the province you live in. For many, the only option at first will be online, through a government-run lottery corporation.

“We’re going to be first out of the gate in Ontario,” Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) spokesperson Tony Bitonti told Yahoo Finance Canada in an interview. “We’re going from a few hundred different betting options to a few thousand betting options.”

OLG announced on Aug. 12 that it will launch its enhanced PROLINE+ platform on Friday, which now allows single-event wagers for the first time on the government website. The upgrade to the crown corporation’s long-serving sports betting brand is said to “deliver a new, enhanced betting experience. OLG plans to roll out features that have proven popular for years in the grey market, like live in-game betting. Like all OLG products, Bitonti says 100 per cent of the proceeds will support provincial causes like health care and education.

“I don’t think they’re doing that stuff on the Isle of Man or in Malta,” he said, referring to offshore sportsbook operators. “We’re aimed at clearing up the black and grey markets in sports betting.”

Loto-Québec issued a press release on Aug. 12 announcing single-sports betting will be available online starting Aug. 27. The lottery corporation said the new platform, called Mise-o-jeu+, allows players to bet on “the total number of goals, the winning team in the first period or the number of points or touchdowns scored by a player.”

Following suit, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) says single-game wagering begins on its PlayNow website starting Friday. The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation also confirmed its PlayNow website, developed by BCLC, will go live at that time.

“BCLC’s is the only sports gambling website fully registered and regulated by the province of British Columbia,” BCLC spokesperson Matt Lee told Yahoo Finance Canada. “We are exploring additional opportunities to implement single event betting across places such as casinos and lottery retailers.”

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis confirmed the province will not be debuting a single-event sports product on Friday.

“We are continuing to examine timing and next steps for Alberta,” a spokesperson said in an email on Thursday.

The agency said in an Aug. 3 press release that it plans to add single event sports betting to its website “later in 2021.”

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which spans Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island, confirmed to Yahoo Finance Canada on Friday that single event sports betting is now available through lotto retailers, as well as its website and mobile app.

Saskatchewan, part of the Western Canadian Lottery Corporation (WCLC), which also covers Alberta, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, is another uncertain case.

“Saskatchewan does not have any online options today,” Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association said in an interview. “The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which operates seven casinos in the province, has been given authority by the province of Saskatchewan to operate online gaming and online sports betting. So they’re evaluating their options.”

A WCLC spokesperson did not respond to multiple inquiries by phone in time for this story’s publication.

What’s next for sports betting in Canada?

Lottery regulators in Quebec, B.C., and Manitoba say they are exploring bringing single-sports betting into stores where lottery tickets are sold. A spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries noted that it sells lottery products through more than 950 private stores in the province.

Burns sees enhanced sportsbooks at land-based casinos that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as the next logical step for many provinces.

“In time, you may see an extension into hospitality establishments or retail locations where you buy lottery tickets,” he said. 

“I know the casino operators are eagerly wanting to get to work and make sure they have an offering as soon as possible. But there are some contractual hurdles to get over. And some provinces have not been clear on whether their casinos are going to get sportsbooks at this point in time, or when.”

Ontario is a special case, he notes. The province is unique in its plan to open its sports betting market to as many private operators as can attain a licence. That will see Toronto-based Score Media and Gaming, and other homegrown sportsbooks, squaring off against a number of big American betting companies that have expressed interest in Canada’s most populous province. Burns says he expects that to happen before the end of the year.

“I think you’re going to see an evolution over the next several months,” he said.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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