In order to attract more players, the provincial governments may consider actively lobbying the federal government for an amendment to the Code to permit single event sports betting. The private member’s bill that would have made that change recently died in the Senate after lobbying against the bill by, amongst others, representatives of major league sports associations.
Match-Fixing – Canadian Engagement
Match-fixing is generally considered to be one of the most pressing issues facing sports, both amateur and professional, in decades. In countries such as England and Australia where the issues of match-fixing and probity in sports have been acknowledged and directly addressed by legislation, the involvement of three groups is seen as critical to the success of initiatives in this sphere: the sports leagues and players associations, the bookmakers, and all of the necessary levels of government. The engagement of those three groups in Canada is reviewed below.
(i) Lottery Corporations
As the provincial governments (through the auspices of their respective Lottery Corporations) are the country’s only legal bookmakers, one would expect them to take an active interest in the sports betting industry and the nexus between sports teams and players, bettors and sportsbooks. That interest should inevitably include concern with regard to the integrity of sports in Canada and the pressing issue of match-fixing along with a commitment to address the issue through legislation. To date, there is no indication that the Lottery Corporations are engaged in a consideration of these issues. This may be explained at least partially by the belief that so long as they only provide parlay betting, individuals planning to profit by fixing matches will not be placing their bets on Lottery Corporation books. This appears to be a short-sighted approach. As the nation’s only legal bookmakers, they may be held responsible, justifiably or not, if incidents of match-fixing occur during games played in Canada and upon which people were betting on Pro-Line. Finally, the issue needs Canadian champions and, given the void in that respect to date, it would be very much to the advantage of the Lottery Corporations to be seen as moral standard-bearers on this subject.
(ii) Sports Leagues and Players Associations
To date, the only indication of concern on the part of sports leagues in Canada was demonstrated by their belated lobbying against the single-event sports betting bill in front of the Senate for the past two years. The leagues took the position that single event sports betting would lead to match-fixing and generalized corruption in sports. This point is, unfortunately, moot as online single event sports betting is a billion dollar industry that will not be disappearing in the foreseeable future. We are therefore already dealing with the fall-out from single event sports betting in Canada. Blocking passage of the bill, rather than supporting legalization of single event betting along with legislation to address match-fixing, merely perpetuates the unacceptable status quo. Leagues and players in Canada must own the problem as they have done in other jurisdictions and either initiate action or actively support government initiatives to promote integrity in sports and penalize match-fixing and other forms of fraud in this arena.