Canada’s battle for legal online sports betting was years in the making. Ultimately after much back and forth in the legislatures, law courts, and courts of public opinion, Canadians finally gained the legal ability to single-event sports wagering. All of the country’s rabid sports fans and those hoping to have a betting stake in the games they love now have an all-encompassing sports betting platform of their own.
Below you will find a guide through the ramifications of what legal sports betting means in Canada, from how we got here, to what to expect from each individual jurisdiction, to the sports Canadians can now bet on, to the sportsbooks we can expect to see invade the Canadian market. Plus, we’ll touch on overall safety and just how single-game betting will change the Canadian landscape.
Best Legal Canada Sportsbooks
What’s new with Canada online sports betting?
The idea of legal sports betting isn’t exactly new in Canada. Prior to August 27, 2021, Canadians were permitted to bet on athletics, but it had to come in the form of parlays. Online sports betting in parlay form has been around in Canada since the early-2000s. What does that mean? Well, say you wanted to bet on the Super Bowl or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. You could, but you couldn’t bet them as one-off wagers. Each ticket had to include multiple bets, reducing the likelihood of your success.
Prior to August 2021, when Bill C-218 went into effect, it was multiple bets or nothing. But now? With the new law in place you can wager on single items, which opens up a world of possibilities for Canadian bettors. We’ll get more into C-218 a little later, stay tuned.
Canada online sports betting structure
In Canada, provinces, just like individual states in the US market are responsible for operating, licensing, and regulating all legal forms of gaming. Most provinces operate under a lottery system – one that has proven underwhelming so far in lottery-based jurisdictions within the US market.
Each of Canada’s 10 province and three territories is able to determine the type of betting, limits, and where gaming activity can take place. Now that single-event sports wagering is permitted, each province gets to control just how they will implement this enhanced product based on their own specific policy objectives and market circumstances.
Individual provinces have taken a measured approach on their launch of single-game betting in their markets. Some, like Ontario and British Columbia jumped on the idea quickly, while others are taking their time, mulling just what shape their platforms will take.
Canadian markets are expected to see some Heavyweight competition to their provincial lotteries. Big-name brands like DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, BetMGM and Canadian-born theScore Bet among others are expected to all come to market in Canada and create a competitive industry for the country’s 38 million residents.
What is in Bill C-218?
The idea of expanding Canada’s legal sports betting platform had been in the news for years. Since the early 2000’s some legislators in the country worked at growing sports betting offerings to include single-game betting, not just parlays that forced customers to wager on more than just their favorite team or game at a time. The idea of sports betting expansion really picked steam in 2015, but it wasn’t until February of 2021 that Bill C-218 was born, giving a tangible voice to proponents of single-game betting in Canada. It passed by a 57-20 margin in the House of Commons on June 23, 2021.
Some have credited legalization in US markets and the seemingly smooth transition from zero sports betting to full-blown betting markets there as a catalyst for Canadian regulators to act. Nearby states like Michigan, just across the border from Canada, went from 0-60 with few hiccups in its iGaming pursuit. If they can do it, why not Canada?
Bill C-218 in the end was simply the rewriting of one line in Canada’s Criminal Code to allow for individual provinces to decide what is best for their jurisdiction in relation to sports betting and regulate the wagering platforms they see as a fit. It ultimately will lead to the licensing of online sportsbooks and with them, a tasty menu of wagering choices for CN sports bettors.
C-218 moved towards the final stages of passage on June 8 when the Canadian senate began to advance through it. There had been much discussion, some necessary, and some seemingly with a delay/stall tactic in mind. There were familiar arguments about the “integrity of the games” and the issues that problem gambling could thrust into the spotlight if legal sports betting was able to become legal, but this sentiment ultimately lost steam.
Canada backs C-218
Canada’s “modernization” of the legal sports betting platform was a welcome one. Canada, as a self-described “liberal” country didn’t put up much of a fight, despite the predictable legal and legislative wrangling.
All four major North American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) overwhelmingly supported legal sports betting in the US market and in fact, all have taken on official sports betting partnership agreements with sportsbooks operating south of the border. Obviously, those leagues carried that support over to Canadian markets. The popular CFL (Canadian Football League) signaled their overwhelming support for C-218, the Canadian Olympic Committee and individual Provincial Lotteries that will likely run each jurisdictions’ platforms have all voiced immense support for single-game betting in the country.
Obviously, the Canadian Gaming Association and the rash of sportsbooks scheduled to come into the Canadian sports betting fray have all shown their overwhelming support for single-event betting and the ultimate expansion of Canada’s sports wagering platform. This leaves the future of sports betting in Canada looking very bright. Single game wagers can now legally be placed from computers and mobile apps throughout Canada.
Provincial rollouts for Canada online sports betting
As previously mentioned, Bill C-218 allows for each of Canada’s provinces to roll out what they think is the best sports betting option for their citizens. While rollout has begun to take place in some provinces, others are taking their time and will likely go live in 2022. Here’s how things are currently progressing across the country.
Ontario is the largest sports betting market in all of Canada and has been one of the most proactive provinces in launching a single-game betting platform. Proline+ Sportsbook, which falls under the Ontario Lottery, officially launched in August 2021 and likely won’t face much competition well into 2022. The offering has been slightly underwhelming so far but as the first on the scene, will give bettors in the province a chance to at least see what an expanded platform will mean for them going forward. Expect Proline+ to do well until some of the “Big Dogs” of the US sports betting industry venture north.
British Columbia has quietly developed a sports betting platform that has been used internationally for years. Play Now, which was developed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation is a well-known global legal sports betting entity and has made a smooth transition into the BC market. Like Ontario, British Columbia’s single-game betting platform is lottery run, it has roots in the global sports betting scene, and is the most market-ready platform in Canada. Unlike Ontario, BC residents will be offered a slick and modern betting product, worthy of the US market right off the bat.
We may see the Play Now platform in other provinces across Canada – it is that good and that established. We are also likely to see stiff, US-based competition eventually enter the BC market.
Quebec’s legal sports betting platform has been up and running for years, operating parlay betting options under the Loto Quebec banner. They currently have retail betting options and online sports betting options for the province’s sportsbooks. Just how far the province goes with regard to gaming expansion remains to be seen.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, the three Canadian “prairie provinces” have joined together to implement and regulate their casino and sports betting platforms. The Western States Lottery Corporation has had “The Sports Select,” offering parlay betting for years. They will likely expand their offerings in the near future to offer single-game betting and the ultimately modernize their product.
Those in the Alberta market figure to have the most competitive options of the three. Alberta lawmakers have publicly vowed a widespread and competitive legal sports betting market.
On the eastern side of the country lies another another group of provinces that will operate their legal sports betting platform under one umbrella. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador will have the Atlantic Lottery as the main regulator of their casino and sports betting platform. It has taken some time for the Atlantic provinces to get on board with single-game betting, but once they do, adding such an option to their existing parlay betting structure should be quick and simple.
Sports to bet on in Canada
With C-218 there are few restrictions on the sports that are available for Canadians to bet on. Sportsbooks in the Great White North will likely follow a US model out of necessity. Heavyweight US brands are making their way to Canada to provide serious competition to the lotteries which have been the gatekeepers of Canadian sports betting for years.
Canada is hockey-crazed but there are strong arguments that NFL betting, just like in the US, could end up being Canada’s bread-and-butter. Geographically, 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border. Sociologically, Canadians are as influenced by American TV (including news and sports) as they are Canada’s media outlets. Canada’s ESPNs, TSN, and Sportsnet focus heavily on the NFL during the season and even broadcast the NFL Draft which takes place in the spring.
Still, Canada with its seven NHL teams – the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, will be the focus of the country’s sportsbooks. The NBA’s Toronto Raptors and MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays, both of which have won Championships in their respective leagues, as well as the CFL should gain a fair amount of attention from the sports betting scene across the country.
Existing sportsbook menus which include Proline+ in the Ontario market offer:
- Hockey (NHL, AHL, QMJHL, WHL and International markets such as Great Britain and Russia)
- Football (NFL, American College, CFL)
- Basketball (NBA and International Leagues such as Brazil and Europe)
- Baseball (MLB and International markets such as Mexico and South Korea)
- Soccer (action on most major international leagues)
- Formula 1
It doesn’t appear that Canadians will miss out on any sports betting opportunities as the market matures. Right now, the wagering menus cover all of the major sports that the bulk of Canadians are interested in. That menu will expand to include many “others” as the industry becomes more mainstream.
Types of wagers that are legal for Canadians
The legalization of single-game wagering in Canada has meant the expansion of betting markets for Canadians. Traditional parlays and the occasional prop bet have given way to a full menu of wagering options, as of August 27, 2021, and the passing of Bill C-218. Canadian’s betting options now include:
- Moneyline – The simplest bet in which you pick the winner of a match. Odds are calculated by the sportsbook and your winnings depend on those odds. Betting the underdog in a moneyline bet pays bigger than the favorite.
- Spread – Spreads are a betting opportunity that takes into account the spread, or amount sportsbooks set out for the winners to win by or the losers to lose by. Simply put, the winner (if you bet on them) has to win by over the number set out by oddsmakers while the underdog has to either win or lose by less than that number. For example, Raptors -3 means the Raptors must win by 3 points to cover.
- Total – Otherwise know as the over/under in which you bet on the total number of points/goals scored in a game. The sportsbook sets the total and you bet on whether the two teams will go “over” or “under” that total.
- Prop bets – Props are a really fun type of bet that allows newcomers and seasoned bettors to bet on things that may not necessarily affect the outcome of a game. Examples range from who scores the first goal, to who wins the coin toss, to how long the National Anthem will be.
- Futures – appeals to all levels of bettors from the seasoned to the newcomer. It allows bettors to predict the outcome of long-term events such as the Super Bowl winner, Conference Champions, MVP recipient, etc., in a range of sports.
- Parlay – They were permitted before, and will remain popular. Multiple individual bets that can come in the same sport or different ones if you so choose. These bets can be a bit tricky and difficult to win. Miss on one of your game picks and lose the whole bet. Hit them all though, and you’ve got yourself a strong payday coming.
- Live Betting – increasingly popular form of wager that takes place after a game has already started. Examples range from how many points will be scored in a quarter of football or basketball to which player scores the next goal. It’s real-time betting action that allows the public to have a stake in every moment of a match. Live Betting has emerged as one of the most popular types of sports betting globally. The Canadian market has jumped in with both feet and will offer bettors across the country the ability to place real-time bets on the games they are watching. The Ontario Lottery Commission’s Proline+ and British Columbia’s Play Now are leading the charge in the Canadian market with Live Betting.
Competition for lottery-run sportsbooks
Bill C-218 has paved the way for serious competition for the traditional Canadian lottery-run sports betting program. It is taking some time for global sports wagering behemoths to enter Canada, but rumors have some of the gambling giants coming to market across the country in 2022. Licensing and regulation of such sportsbook brands will depend on provincial regulators vetting and ultimately opening up their markets to non-Lottery brands.
Rumored sportsbooks on the horizon for the Canadian market include:
DraftKings Sportsbook Canada
DraftKings Sportsbook has been one of the dominant brands in the US market and is an immediate threat in any market that it enters. DraftKings has already taken the step of becoming a member of the Canadian Gaming Association and already offers its DFS products within the Canadian market. When it ultimately arrives in Canada, DraftKings Sportsbook, just like in the US, will be a huge factor.
FanDuel Sportsbook Canada
The other major DFS provider-turned sportsbook giant that is poised to jump across the border and into the Canadian market is FanDuel. They, like DraftKings, already offer their suite of DFS products to Canadians. The FanDuel platform has set the bar high with regard to betting options, cash out speed, and overall fan experience in the US and is expected to do the same in Canada.
BetMGM Sportsbook Canada
BetMGM is another huge name in the US market and will be a player in Canada as well… eventually. With years of experience catering to gamblers in the US, and with an impressive, easy-to-use, visually stimulating, and all-encompassing online product, BetMGM is poised to give the lotteries a run for their money in Canada. Of note, BetMGM has Canadian icon Wayne Gretzky as one of its brand ambassadors, so you know they mean business.
theScore Bet Canada
Penn National, one of the major players within the US market completed a $2 billion acquisition of the well-known Canadian sports media brand, theScore, on October 19, 2021, with an eye on the Canadian legal sports betting scene. theScore has been a focal point in Canada’s sports media sphere since 2012 and gives Penn National a huge leg up in the Canadian market. theScore’s immense history as a top-tier media brand and their access to Canadian entities has been viewed as a major boon for the Penn’s future aspirations.
theScore Bet has been a middling brand in the US and is live in a good number of states and together with Penn National, they will bring with them to Canada a ton of experience. Competitive odds, bonuses, general influence, and ties to the Canadian market should make theScore Bet a serious player.
Caesars Sportsbook Canada
Caesars Sportsbook is currently one of the biggest sportsbooks in the US after their 2021 acquisition of William Hill. Caesars already has a presence in Canada thanks to the Caesars Windsor casino in Ontario and will be looking to build on that presence with one of the most complete online sportsbook options anywhere in the world. They are already a member of the Canadian Gaming Association.
PointsBet is an Australian-based sportsbook that has made huge inroads into the legal American market and will be looking to do the same in Canada. They have hired former Senior Vice President for Canadian mega-company Rogers Communications as Chief Commercial Officer for Canadian operations. He brings instant knowledge of the Canadian market into the equation, and will help with the brand’s development within the country.
Hard Rock Sportsbook Canada
Hard Rock is another company with existing ties into the Canadian market. They already own and operate casinos in Vancouver and Ottawa and are a member of the Canadian Gaming Association already. They’ve had mixed online sports betting success in the United States, and remain a recognizable name in the Canadian scene which could lead to positive results.
Canada online sports betting is safe
One of the big questions in any new sports betting market is safety. With that has come serious efforts by sportsbooks to develop and use impenetrable encryption software. After all, it takes just one report of a security breach to bring a sportsbook down.
Over their history the Canadian markets have been and will continue to be heavily regulated. The two biggest operations, the Ontario Lottery Commission and Play Now out of BC have been running online sports betting for years without any sort of security issue. We expect that to continue and for safety to continue to be paramount for any sportsbook operating in the Canadian market. You can trust Canada’s online sportsbooks.