LAS VEGAS – Canadians concerned that their government will mimic the feds in the United States and start shutting down their online sites can breathe easy. As they say north of the frost line, no worries.
Paul Burns, vice president of the Canadian Gaming Association, says that he sees no intense scrutiny of sites that Canadian bettors frequent – even though any extra-provincial gambling is technically illegal. In fact, the winds are in a way blowing at the backs of gambling proponents as single-game sports betting progresses through the legislative process in Ottawa.
“With gambling, everything in Canada has been done incrementally,” Burns told Covers.com in advance of the second annual iGaming North America Conference, being held at Planet Hollywood in the heart of the Vegas Strip. “And that’s the way things have been with sports betting.”
The Canadian government has given the provinces a near carte blanche to implement whatever type of gambling they want. Some have shied away. Others (British Columbia, the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec) have dabbled. There is no one-size-fits-all business model when it comes to Canadian gambling.
Burns is heartened that the bill allowing single-game wagering in Ontario casinos has made its way through the House of Commons and needs just Senate approval and a signature from the Queen’s representative to become law. [At present provinces can offer only three-team parlay game wagering, similar to what is offered at three Delaware casinos.]
“From everything I’ve seen and heard,” said Burns, “there is strong support for the bill in the Senate. A lot can happen between now and passage, but it looks promising.”
Burns wouldn’t hazard a guess as to whether other provinces would follow suit if the door is opened for Ontario’s casinos to offer one-game wagering, but he did point out that 40 percent of the country’s entire population is located there.
Internet gambling is another issue, though, and Burns admits that there is little provincial camaraderie when it comes to legalization of online play.
“What I do know,” said Burns, “is that the public is way ahead of the provincial governments when it comes to Internet gambling. And there appears to be no rush to regulate the industry.
“The government is a reluctant manager of the gambling industry in Canada. The federal government doesn’t want to do anything to upset the provinces, and the provinces all are heading in different directions. So nothing much gets done.”
Burns admits that he was surprised last year when Canadian authorities greeted the U.S. Black Friday April 15 shutdown of Absolute Poker, Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker with a collective shrug.
“I felt almost certain that the action would result in a national conversation about gambling,” said Burns, “but it didn’t happen.” Burns pointed out that thousands of Canadian poker players had their accounts frozen by the government in the Full Tilt fiasco, but the only action taken was by the players themselves, some of whom filed a class action lawsuit against FTP. From the government, only crickets.
Canada by all accounts is fertile ground for online companies – either home-bred or offshore. A recent world-wide survey showed that percentage-wise Canadians are among the most-avid Internet users in the world, and that online gambling among the Maple Leaf crowd has increased dramatically in recent years.
And with the government not inclined to get too involved, those numbers should stay steady or even increase, boding well for provincial and off-shore operators. Unlike in the States, it’s no big deal in Canada.
And Chris Bosh, the most laid-back player in NBA history, didn’t like it there?
[Note: On Tuesday Burns will be one of the featured speakers at the iGaming conference, discussing Canada’s role in Internet gambling and what other countries might be able to learn from the Canadian model.]