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All about Sports Betting in Canada

Sports Betting in Canada
Publish Date: 11/16/2018
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

With a history of more than 600 years, betting on sports is one of Canadians’ oldest hobbies. We like to wager on all sorts of sports, and our relaxed laws allow it. Today, we will take a look at our sports betting industry, focusing on its history and development. We will also delve into the present-day condition of the industry. Read below if you are interested.

Early days

As mentioned, sports betting has a rich history in Canada. Before the Europeans set foot on Canadian soil, natives had wagered on various sports activities. If there were any bookmakers back 600 years ago, they would have offered odds for canoe racing and archery events, running, etc. Historians believe the natives’ sports betting hobbies were created with two purposes – entertaining the public and improving the skills of those who took part in the events.

When the first Europeans settled in Canada, they brought European forms of wagering as well as a number of laws to regulate the activity. According to data, the first gambling-related laws in the country were passed back in 1774, and they were largely based on gambling laws in the UK and France.

Contrary to expectations, Canadians did not abode by these laws. In fact, the population of Canada was scattered over great distances, which made it impossible for the Government to enforce any gambling-related laws.

Developments: 1867 to 1969

Legislation concerning gambling activities was finally introduced in 1867, when the Canadian government adopted a modified version of the British gambling regulations. Little changed before 1892, when a Criminal Code was added to the Canadian gambling laws. With the introduction of the Criminal Code, for the first time in history, a Canadian could be punished for breaking the law.

The Criminal Code was not the only anti-gambling measure taken by the government in 1892, though. As a matter of fact, the government took another, equally serious measure – they made gambling illegal.

Interestingly, private sports betting remained untouched by the Government. That is why people could bet on sports as much as they liked, so long as they did not wager through a bookmaker. Nevertheless, one sport remained opened for public betting – horse racing, of course.

From racecourses to lotteries

For many years, horse racing remained the only legal way to bet in Canada. Changes in legislation were finally passed in 1969, however, and the Criminal Code was amended. Consequently, the Canadian government allowed provincial and federal governments to run lotteries, which supported charities, such as the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

No sooner than the government realized the amount of profits that could be generated through gambling that the country became increasingly liberal on the topic. In just a few years, provinces were allowed to install gaming devices such as slot machines on a mass scale.

And yet, despite the fact that Canada introduced more relaxed gambling laws, it left sports betting largely out of the picture until 1985.

From Pro-Line to gambling online

In 1985, the Canadian government introduced another set of amendments to the Criminal Code, thanks to which sports betting in lottery format became allowed. Nevertheless, betting on the outcome of a single sporting event remained prohibited by law. That is why the Pro-Line machines which were installed featured only parlay betting options. Essentially, punters could bet on two to six or on three to six matches on one ticket, depending on their location.

Initially, when Pro-Line betting was introduced to Ontario, it featured one simple betting option – backing a team to win. In a few years, punters could also bet on Over/Under, and shortly afterwards another popular betting market was launched – point spread betting.

In the 1990s, the first online betting sites were launched, and it was clear that sports betting sites were about emerge as well.

According to the Canadian criminal law, sports betting is illegal unless done after fulfilling a certain number of requirements (which explains why there are no land-based bookmakers in the country). Through online betting sites, however, Canadians can effectively place legal sports bets, as the sites they wager on are based outside the country.

This only changed when Sports Interaction was founded in 1997. This company, based just 15 minutes away from Montreal, was the first to offer online sports betting on the outcome of single events. What is more, Sports Interaction offered betting on sports which were not covered by Pro-Line machines. In addition, this website offered better odds, and a set of great bonuses to newcomers.

Present-day sports betting

At present, betting on sports in Canada remains legal only on the web; if you want to make sports bets in brick-and-mortar establishments, you can not do it on single sporting events. Curiously, 2016 saw an attempt to change this legislation, but that attempt proved unsuccessful.

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