Canada Online Sports Betting
Parlays were popular in Canada long before they became the hot sports betting wager of the moment in America. In fact, parlay sports betting has been legal in Canada since the 1990s. Provincial lotteries were, and in most places still are, in charge of sports betting in the country. Back in the old days before August 27, 2021, single-game sports betting was not legal in Canada and the lotteries only offered parlay betting which was not very popular due to the high odds of winning and inferior lines.
On this page we will briefly touch on the federal legislation that brought single-game wagering to Ontario and other provinces, explain why the gray market still exists and what may become of it, give you a province-by-province update on legal single-game wagering, and wrap it all up with a very special FAQ. Here we go!
Canadian Federal Sports Betting Legislation
Realizing that wagering was already thriving in the country and seeing their southern neighbors in America handle sports betting legalization without much issue drove legislators in Ottawa to consider legislation to fully legalize the activity. In 2021, after years of discussion, leaders in Parliament voted for and passed a simple bill, C-218, that explicitly legalized sports betting in the country and authorized each province to legalize and regulate it as they saw fit. The bill was enacted on August 27, 2021, a day that will live in infamy for fans of sports betting in Canada.
Gray Market vs. Regulated Market in Canada
Prior to the enactment of C-218, sports betting was not legal in Canada, but it was not explicitly illegal either. There was a law that said a sportsbook could not be physically located in Canada, but no law said that it was illegal for a sportsbook to operate in Canada. This may seem like semantics, but it cracked the door open just enough to create a thriving gray market. Sportsbooks knew the chances of them being prosecuted for operating in Canada were slim to none, and bettors knew the same thing. Therefore, many overseas sportsbooks let Canadians wager on their platforms, and millions of Canadians did so, generating billions of dollars in untaxed revenue for the operators.
Now that C-218 has passed, each province can regulate sports betting as they see fit. We will get into a little more detail on each province’s plans for regulation in the next section, but the point of C-218 is to bring operators, many of which are very familiar to bettors in the country, out of the gray area and into the regulated market. Most operators excitedly jumped at the opportunity to become licensed in Ontario when the province opened up its application process. The thinking being that many more people will be interested in fully legal sports betting that is regulated by the province, which would include mechanisms to protect customer deposits and ensure integrity of the sportsbooks, neither of which were assured in the gray market.
That said, many sportsbooks have seemed content staying where they are, working with their existing large customer base and not wanting to go through the licensing process, which would include, you know, paying taxes, something they don’t have to do in the gray market. This is worrisome for regulators because the whole point of allowing sports betting is to create a legal, regulated market. In the long run, most sportsbooks who want to operate throughout the country will become regulated, but those who may have thought the gray market would go away are realizing they were sadly mistaken.
Canadian Province Sports Betting Updates
Enough gray market talk. We can’t do anything about that. What we are more excited about is the fact that sports betting is legal and thriving in Ontario and will soon be in some other provinces. Each province can decide whether to throw open the doors to sportsbook operators like Ontario did, keep sports betting exclusive to the provincial lottery like BC has done so far, or something in-between like what Alberta is considering. Let’s go over what we know about each province’s plans for sports betting now that it is legal.
The Atlantic provinces are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. They all share a lottery administrator known as Atlantic Lottery Commission (ALC). ALC is in charge of sports betting in addition to lottery games. Since the passage of C-218, ALC has offered single-game wagering through its Proline sportsbook. Each province passed rules authorizing single-game wagering and currently offers Proline to its residents. Unlike Ontario, there is no current plan to expand sports betting to include outside operators like DraftKings and FanDuel.
For more detailed information about sports betting in Ontario, be sure to check out our Ontario page. Ontario has taken the lead on sports betting in Canada, which is not a surprise considering it is by far the country’s most populous province. Led by Toronto and its professional sports teams, Ontario is the sports capital of Canada, filled with eager bettors who passionately follow (and wager on) their favorite teams. The good news is those eager bettors now have over a dozen sportsbooks to choose from, with more on the way. On April 4, 2022, the province opened its doors, and the sportsbooks flooded in, all licensed and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
Unlike Ontario, outside sportsbooks will not be flocking to Quebec. Similar to most other provinces, Quebec is giving its government-owned lottery corporation, Loto Quebec, exclusive rights to single-game wagering. Bettors in Quebec will be able to wager on single games and events like every other province, but their only legal option will be Mise-o-jeu+ (French for stake-o-game, according to Google), the lottery’s sportsbook. This is a bummer because Mise-o-jeu has inferior lines and few promotions. But at least bettors aren’t stuck with only parlays like they were in the dark days of 2021 and before.
Over on the west coast, British Columbia has a lottery-run sportsbook, called PlayNow, which is actually pretty good. The lines are competitive, there are some promotions, and a wide variety of sports are available. Right now, there are no plans to open up the province to outside operators, but BC bettors are better off than their neighbors because PlayNow is just about as good as any of its private competitors.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are collectively known as the Prairie provinces, but they have three different plans for legal sports betting.
Manitoba seems content to keep single-game wagering under the jurisdiction of the government, offering it exclusively through the Play Now app, which is actually the BC lottery sports betting app that is available in Manitoba through a licensing agreement.
Saskatchewan, on the other hand, decided to partner with its First Nations (Canadian name for Native American people) to expand the state-run gambling opportunities in the province. This unique partnership allows the First Nations to run the online casinos in the state, which will include an online sportsbook that will be released sometime in 2023. Until then, Sports Select is the only option for Saskatchewan bettors, which isn’t a good option at all because bets are capped at $100 and it is retail-only.
Alberta is coming close to Ontario’s open market, but as of now the state lottery commission seems content to just let 2 or 3 operators enter the market, so as to limit competition with PlayAlberta, the province-run online sportsbook. We will be keeping an eye on Alberta, because there is potential for several sportsbooks to end up entering the market in 2023.
Is Sports Betting Legal in Canada?
You could be forgiven for thinking that all types of sports betting was already legal in Canada. Grey market operators have been advertising in the country for years, and provincial lotteries and offshore sportsbooks have been offering sports betting in the country for decades.
What changed was the fact that sports betting, including single-game wagering, was made expressly legal by the federal government and is now being offered by province-run lotteries and private sportsbooks in Ontario. This may not seem like a big deal, but creating a legal, regulated market is a huge change for the better that will lead to millions of dollars in tax revenue being used to pay for important government programs, not to mention the fact that all personal and financial information will be subject to strict security regulations.
Which sports are available to wager on in Canada?
All major sports are available for betting in Canada, including, but not limited to:
- Australian Rules Football
- Basketball (NBA and NCAA)
- Football (CFL, NFL, NCAA)
- Hockey (of course)
Which types of bets can I make?
Back in the day, parlay bets with inferior lines were the only legal bets available in Canada. Those days are over! Now there are hundreds of bets available for even the most low-profile weeknight NHL game. Bet types offered by sportsbooks in Canada include:
- Parlays (including same-game parlays)
- Point Spread
- Prop Bets
- Total (over/under)