Like its neighbor to the south, Canada loves sports. Canadians love sports betting, too, although when it comes to legally betting on sporting events, the country has been limited to parlay bets only. But new legislation is making single-game sports betting in Canada a reality. Fans from Vancouver to Montreal and everywhere else in the country can bet on their favorite franchises. That includes Ontario where teams like the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Blue Jays all compete.
What follows is an overview of Canadian sports betting, including how it has existed in the past and where it is heading in the future. How does sports betting fit into the country’s laws regarding gambling? Single-game sports betting in Canada is on its way, but we will take a closer look at how it might be regulated and how retail and online sports betting could work in Canada.
Last updated: Aug. 27, 2021
Single-game event wagering has begun in Canada through provincial lottery outlets. Currently, betting is being offered only on a retail basis through lottery outlets.
- Ontario: Proline+
- Quebec: Mise-o-Jue
- British Columbia: PlayNow
- Atlantic Provinces: Proline Stadium
- Western Provinces: Sport Select
Bill C-218 of the Canadian Criminal Code allows single-event wagering throughout the country. Online wagering through third-party vendors like Canada-bred theScore and DraftKings is expected before the end of the year.
Is sports betting legal in Canada?
Yes, sports betting is legal in Canada, but there are limitations. Canada’s Criminal Code authorizes each of the country’s 10 provinces to regulate gambling on its own. All of them allow certain types of gambling, including online gambling. Among the available types of gambling are parlay-based sports betting requiring wagers on multiple games. Up to now, single-game wagering has not been legal in Canada, although a new law is set to change that.
Provincial lotteries operate sports betting. As noted, bettors have not been able to bet on a single game, only on multiple events. As with parlay bets, you must get all of the picks correct to win the wager. Some provinces impose a two-game minimum, while others have a three-game minimum. You can imagine how such a restriction affects sports betting in Canada. Parlay bets, especially with three or more games or “legs,” often are long shots. They may pay well, but they are hard to win.
Note that some sites operate in Canada without a license. These are known as offshore betting sites. They operate in Canada in a legal gray area. Those sites generally feature traditional sportsbooks that allow single-game bets, which obviously creates significant competition for the provincial lottery-run sports betting sites — as well as significant risks for the players.
What single-event wagering means for Canadian sports betting
According to the Canadian Gaming Association, Canadians bet around $4 billion on sports each year using offshore sites. The CGA additionally estimates Canadians wager up to $10 billion each year using illegal bookmaking operations. By comparison, they only bet around $500 million each year using legal provincial sports lottery products.
Legalizing single-game sports betting in Canada is obviously a game-changer. The federal bill C-218, or the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, amends the Criminal Code to allow single-game wagering. The bill made it through the House of Commons, which voted to approve it in April 2021. The Senate then approved the measure in late June. It received royal assent shortly thereafter.
First and foremost, legalizing single-game betting will significantly impact the revenue provinces collect from sports betting. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Canada’s provinces collected almost $242 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) from sports betting during 2019. PwC notes that represented only 1.4% of all regulated GGR for the year.
PwC estimates that within two years of legal single-game wagering, the market for legal sports betting in Canada could be 10 times larger. Others have predicted even larger growth. For example, Toronto-based Score Media and Gaming Inc. estimated Canada’s annual GGR from sports betting could be $3.8 billion to $5.4 billion based on estimates derived from US markets that have recently legalized sports betting.
Ontario sports betting plans
Speaking of Ontario, Canada’s largest province already made moves to position itself well for legal single-game sports betting.
Ontario already allows sports bettors to visit an Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) retailer where they can place wagers using the Pro-Line sports betting service. You are limited to betting on three to six events, and there is no online option.
However, in 2020 Ontario lawmakers began discussing legislation to allow private companies other than the provincial lottery to offer online gambling in the province. Various entities have already expressed interest in doing so, ranging from the aforementioned Score Media (theScore) to non-gambling companies like the owners of The Toronto Star. Once single-game wagering becomes possible, if Ontario passes such legislation, these companies would be able also to open online sportsbooks and sports betting apps.
Expect Ontario to move quickly to launch expanded online gambling once single-game sports betting becomes an option.
British Columbia sports betting plans
Across the country on the West Coast, British Columbia is also readying for expanded sports betting.
At present, those in Vancouver and other cities in Canada’s third most populous province can place the same sort of limited menu of sports wagers via services operated by the British Columbia Lottery Corp. They can either visit a BCLC lotto retailer and place their wagers in person or bet online using BCLC’s PlayNow site. In either case, bettors can wager on two to six events as a parlay.
Lottery officials in British Columbia strongly support C-218. Indeed, British Columbia is already preparing to launch single-game wagering as soon as it is available. Stewart Groumoutis, director of eGaming operations for BCLC, estimates the province has lost approximately $250 million in additional tax revenue over the last five years thanks to bettors turning to offshore sports betting sites to make single-game wagers. Groumoutis believes British Columbia would collect $125 million to $175 million annually once it is able to start offering single-game bets.
How other provinces bet on sports in Canada
Ontario has Pro-Line and BC has PlayNow and Sports Action. Meanwhile, the other provinces also offer similarly limited parlay-based sports betting through provincial lotteries.
Bettors in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island can use the Pro-Line Stadium betting options from the Atlantic Lottery Corp. These include Pro-Line, Pro-Line Fantasy, Pro-Line Futures and Stadium Bets.
Those in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, plus the three territories — Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon — can use Sport Select, which the Western Canada Lottery Corp. operates. Manitoba residents can additionally bet on sports on BC’s PlayNow site thanks to an agreement between the two provinces.
Meanwhile, in Quebec, bettors can place their sports bets at Mise-o-jeu, the sports betting site from Loto-Québec.
When will Canada end the ban on single-game wagering?
It happened in June of 2021, which means single-game wagering will eventually arrive in Canada. It’s just a matter of time. The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (C-218) passed in June, single-game wagering could become available in the provinces relatively quickly, perhaps by the fall.
The law simply amends the current Criminal Code to allow single-game wagering. It leaves intact the current system whereby each individual province decides what types of gambling it wishes to allow. Thus, sports betting would continue with the provinces regulating it as before, only with single-game wagering a new option.
Can you play daily fantasy sports contests in Canada?
Yes, you can play daily fantasy sports in Canada. As in many US states where DFS is neither authorized or prohibited, fantasy sites operate in a legal gray area in Canada. DraftKings and FanDuel both invite players from Canada to play their daily fantasy contests, as do smaller DFS sites.
At one point during its early history, DraftKings did not accept players from Quebec. Starting in 2014, however, the site began allowing players from Quebec to play. There was some concern a couple of years later that Loto-Quebec might blacklist DFS sites from serving the province, but that did not come to pass.
Some of the provincial sports betting services offer their own versions of fantasy sports betting. For example, the Atlantic Lottery’s Pro-Line Stadium suite of games includes one called Pro-Line Fantasy. In order to conform to the parlay-betting requirement, the game invites bettors to choose players from two or more groupings in a manner that resembles “tier” contests in regular DFS. Compared to regular DFS, this version of fantasy sports betting is quite restrictive and, unsurprisingly, not nearly as popular among Canadians as DraftKings or FanDuel.
Who will oversee sports betting in Canada?
In a nutshell, the individual provinces oversee all gambling within their borders. A change to the Criminal Code in Canada in 1985 authorized each of the provinces to oversee lotteries and any other forms of gambling they wished to allow within their borders.
That continues to be the case today. Every province but one (Newfoundland and Labrador) has at least one retail casino, and some, like Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, have two dozen or more. Most also have province-run online casinos in Canada, and a few have online poker rooms. All allow sports betting as well, albeit while following the federally imposed parlay-style requirement.
Amending the Criminal Code to allow single-game wagering will not change this regulatory framework. Each province already has its own regulatory body. And these agencies will also oversee the new forms of sports betting once they are legal.
Who can bet on sports in Canada?
Because the provinces oversee gambling, they set the rules not only for what types of gambling are available but for who can gamble.
In the case of online gambling sites in Canada (including sports betting sites), those who place bets must be physically located within the province that is sponsoring the site in order to place their real money wagers. Much like individual states in the US do, the Canadian gambling sites use geolocation technology to ensure players are within the province when making their bets.
Each province also sets the minimum age requirement for sports betting, whether in a retail facility or online. In Ontario, the OLG requires individuals to be 19 or older to gamble in casinos and bet on sports. That’s the same in most provinces, although in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec the minimum is 18 years of age.
Where will I be able to make legal sports bets in Canada?
Right now, Canadians can bet on sports in a variety of retail locations and in many cases online, as well. That said, no matter where they do so, they face that same restriction described above to bet on two or more events as a parlay (three or more, in some cases). However, when single-game wagering becomes available, they’ll be able to continue to bet at all of those same locations, and many new ones, too, including online.
With regard to retail locations for wagering on sports, most provinces currently enable sports betting at any lottery retailer, as well as at casinos and racetracks. In Ontario, for example, there are several thousand OLG retailers across the province. Ontario is also home to nearly 30 casinos, including commercial casinos, charity casinos and First Nations casinos. There are also a number of racetracks in Ontario. Here are the five largest casinos and racetracks in the province:
- Fallsview Casino Resort (Niagara Falls)
- Casino Woodbine and Woodbine Racetrack (Toronto)
- Casino Rama (Rama)
- Elements Casino Mohawk (Milton)
- Casino Niagara (Niagara Falls)
Once single-game wagering becomes available, expect full-fledged retail sportsbooks to open at these Ontario locations and others. In the US, many states are allowing stadiums and arenas to open retail sportsbooks as well. It’s possible something similar could come to Canada, such as in Ontario at locations like the Rogers Centre, BMO Field, TD Place Stadium or Tim Hortons Field.
Online sportsbooks are also likely to come to Canada as individual provinces like Ontario respond to newly expanded sports betting opportunities.
Which online sportsbooks will launch in Ontario?
As noted above, Ontario lawmakers are exploring the possibility of allowing outside operators to open online gambling sites in the province. These would include sportsbook apps. Several big-name operators have already indicated an interest in serving the nearly 13.5 million residents in Canada’s most populous province.
Here are some online sportsbooks that could potentially come to Ontario:
- DraftKings Sportsbook: The daily fantasy and sports betting giant already has numerous sportsbooks across the US. With its DFS site already popular in Canada, DraftKings will be seeking to start taking sports bets there, as well. Recently DraftKings expanded its agreements with the NFL in a deal that will also increase its access in Canada.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: DraftKings’ primary competitor in both the DFS and sports betting markets will likely be vying to compete again with an Ontario sportsbook. Like DraftKings, FanDuel already invites Canadians to participate in DFS contests and thus will already be a known entity to many Ontario sports bettors.
- BetMGM: BetMGM is another fast-growing sportsbook in the US that would like to expand to Ontario. With numerous partnerships with various professional leagues and teams, BetMGM will be well-positioned to compete in Ontario when the time comes.
- TheScore Bet: Toronto’s Score Media and Gaming began as a sports media company, and has now expanded to include sports betting. Its online sportsbook, theScore Bet, has already launched in several US states, and the company has expressed interest in doing the same on its “home turf” in Ontario.
- Rogers Communications: Headquartered in Toronto, this media conglomerate is an example of several Ontario-based companies with an interest in becoming involved in sports betting once legislation allows it. Rogers tipped its hand in March 2021 by expressing its support for C-218.
Do I have to be in Ontario to bet online?
The answer to this question needs to be determined, but it is likely that you will need to be in Ontario to place a bet. Since 2015, the OLC has operated the PlayOLG online casino to offer numerous online casino games. PlayOLG requires those who play real money games on the site to be located in Ontario. The site employs geolocation technology to ensure all who participate are within the province.
Ontario’s government is considering legislation that would invite outside operators to offer online gambling, including online sports betting, in the province as well. The legal framework and other details such as how revenue-sharing would work are currently under discussion. Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey has indicated such details will be final by the end of 2021.
Therefore, it is likely that those who wager on the Ontario online sportsbooks will need to be in Ontario to do so. Such a system would resemble how online sportsbooks work in the US. Similar restrictions in the US require bettors to be in a given state when using the sites. That is why those in Canada cannot place bets at US-based online sportsbooks. All of them use geolocation technology to prevent out-of-state (or out-of-country) betting.
It is also possible, however, that different provinces may approach online sports betting in different ways, including perhaps creating some multi-province agreements as is the case for other forms of online gambling in Canada.
How Canadian online sports betting sites could work
Online sportsbooks in Canada likely will operate very similarly to Michigan online sportsbooks or Pennsylvania sports betting apps. Each province will have its own rules, and there will likely be certain differences among them. But the steps for signing up for an account, depositing and withdrawing money, and placing bets should essentially work similarly.
How to sign up for an Ontario sportsbook account
In Ontario, for example, the OLG will establish guidelines for the sportsbooks to follow when inviting new users to create their online accounts. This process should resemble the current one for creating an OLG account. Users provide personal information like the following:
- First and last name
- Date of birth
- Email address
- Physical mailing address
- Phone number
Those signing up for OLG accounts also need to create a password and agree to the program terms. For the sportsbooks, users may need to supply other information, as well. There should be no need to provide any banking information to create the account. That will come later when depositing funds.
How do I deposit money into an online sports betting account?
Online sportsbooks provide multiple ways to deposit funds. These depend on various factors, including the rules that the provincial regulatory bodies determine in Canada’s case.
Once you’ve created an account, you’ll need to locate the cashier page and follow the instructions for depositing from there. First, you’ll choose your depositing method. The following are typically available at Canadian online gambling sites:
- Debit cards (Visa, Mastercard)
- Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express)
- Interac Online
- Web Cash
- Online bank transfer
Most depositing methods are free of charge, but some do require a small fee. Your bank may also impose a fee if using the online bank transfer option. Generally, sites process deposits right away. However, there may be delays, particularly when making an initial deposit as the site may need to verify your information.
What sports can I bet on in Canada?
Sports have always been a big part of Canadian culture. Soccer, rugby, lacrosse, cricket and motorsports all have fans in Canada. But like in the US, the four major sports are the most popular, with hockey (of course) far and away the favorite.
NHL betting in Canada
Canada is home to several National Hockey League franchises. A couple of them (Montreal and Toronto) date all of the way back to the league’s “Original Six” era. Seven teams from Canada currently compete in the NHL:
- Calgary Flames: Scotiabank Saddledome
- Edmonton Oilers: Rogers Place
- Montreal Canadiens: Bell Centre
- Ottawa Senators: Canadian Tire Centre
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Scotiabank Arena
- Vancouver Canucks: Rogers Arena
- Winnipeg Jets: Bell MTS Place
Montreal and Toronto rank first and second, respectively, with the most Stanley Cup titles among all NHL franchises. Calgary and Edmonton have also won Stanley Cups, and Ottawa collected titles, too, during the early 20th century. Meanwhile, Vancouver and Winnipeg still seek their first championship.
Hockey is a low-scoring sport, which means besides straight-up moneyline bets on which team will win, sportsbooks tend to offer 1.5-goal “puck line” bets. In other sports such as basketball and football, point spread bets can vary a lot. However, in hockey, the puck line usually stays at +1.5/-1.5 with the relative strength of the teams instead reflected in payout differences.
NBA betting in Canada
At present Canada has just one National Basketball Association franchise, the Toronto Raptors, who captured the first NBA title in the country’s history in 2019.
- Toronto Raptors: Scotiabank Arena
The most popular basketball bets are moneyline bets on the outcome, point spread bets and over/under bets on the total number of points from both teams (discussed below).
NFL and CFL betting in Canada
There are no National Football League franchises in Canada, but the NFL is especially popular among fans and bettors. Meanwhile, the Canadian Football League has many fans. The CFL offers a high-level version of American football while using slightly different rules from the NFL.
The CFL season typically runs from June to November. The season culminates with the Grey Cup, the CFL’s equivalent to the Super Bowl. The CFL has roster restrictions that require teams to have a certain number of Canadian players (nationals) while limiting the number of US players (Americans) and those with neither US or Canada citizenship (globals).
There are currently nine CFL teams, each of which has won at least one Grey Cup:
- BC Lions: BC Place
- Calgary Stampeders: McMahon Stadium
- Edmonton Elks: The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium
- Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Tim Hortons Field
- Montreal Alouettes: Percival Molson Memorial Stadium
- Ottawa Redblacks: TD Place Stadium
- Saskatchewan Roughriders: Mosaic Stadium
- Toronto Argonauts: BMO Field
- Winnipeg Blue Bombers: IG Field
Football betting is like basketball, with the most popular bets involving game outcomes. However, prop bets and in game wagers are plentiful for any given team or game, making the options before and during a game nearly unlimited.
MLB betting in Canada
Since the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, DC, and became the Nationals in the mid-2000s, the Toronto Blue Jays have been Canada’s only Major League Baseball team. The Blue Jays captured back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.
- Toronto Blue Jays: Rogers Centre
Baseball is similar to hockey insofar as the scores are often low. Therefore, sportsbooks typically set “run line” bets at +1.5/-1.5.
Betting on Canadian sports teams
Most retail and online sportsbooks provide a wide array of bets from which to choose. The most popular ones often concern a contest result. Others like player props invite bettors to wager on how an individual player will perform. Here are some of the most common types of sports bets:
- Moneyline bets: “Straight up” bets on which side will win a game. Payouts vary in that successful bets on a favorite to win pay less than successful bets on an underdog to win.
- Point spread bets: For these, bettors are wagering on whether a team wins or loses by a certain number of points. For favorites, the team not only has to win but by a certain “spread”; for underdogs, the team can either win by any amount or lose by less than the spread to “cover” the bet.
- Totals: Also called over/under bets, these are wagers on whether the total score in a contest will go over or under a set number.
- Parlays: Parlay bets combine multiple bets into a single wager, with each of the bets having to succeed for the parlay to win. The odds grow greater as you add more “legs” to the parlay, making them long shots to win, though the payoffs can be big.
- Propositions: Prop bets are wagers on various events that are separate from a game’s overall score. Player props can be on how many points a player scores or yards a player gains (an over/under bet). Team props can be similar wagers on how many rebounds a team collects, a totals bet on a single quarter or half, and the like.
History of sports betting in Canada
For much of Canada’s early history and well into the 20th century, sports betting was largely illegal. That changed in 1969 when Canada updated its Criminal Code to allow for lotteries both federally and provincially. Later, in 1982, another amendment formally added pari-mutuel wagering on horse races as well as what would become off-track betting.
Another significant change in Canadian gambling law then came in 1985. That’s when another Criminal Code amendment gave the provinces regulatory authority over both the lotteries and other forms of gambling. That eventually led to an expansion of legal gambling and many casinos opening across the country. About a decade later the First Nations Gaming Act paved the way for indigenous peoples to begin operating casinos on their reserves, as well.
That 1985 amendment also authorized the provinces to offer sports betting, although prohibited any wagering on the outcome of a single game. The only type of sports betting available was “lottery” format wagering, which meant parlay-style betting on multiple events.
In 2004, British Columbia legalized certain types of online gambling, with other provinces following suit thereafter. Eventually, most provinces added sports betting to the available options for betting online. That said, bettors remained restricted to parlay-style wagering on two or more events (three or more, in some cases). Meanwhile, offshore sports betting sites accepted Canadians’ business while offering traditional single-event sports wagering.
This prohibition against single-game wagering continued well into the 21st century. In fact, it wasn’t until 2021 that efforts to change the Criminal Code to allow single-game sports betting finally gained enough momentum, spurred on by successes in the US, especially in states that border Canada.