O Canada! Please Allow Legalized Sports Betting

Canadian politicians are studying a proposal.

O Canada, please become a legalized sports betting country. That apparently is the rallying cry from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and Canadian Football League officials who want to see it happen. In June 2020, the commissioners of those leagues wrote a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling him that they supported legalized sports betting in the country. Canada‚Äôs House of Commons passed a bill allowing for single-event sports gambling by a 303 to 15 margin. Next up will be a hearing in the Justice Committee. Legalized sports betting in Canada has made a 180 degree turn since the early 1990s. NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league would pull expansion franchises from Toronto and Vancouver because Ontario and British Columbia had limited legalized sports gambling. Stern did get politicians in Ontario and in British Columbia to change sports lotteries. “We don’t like to see people encouraged to bet the grocery money on the outcome of any sport but particularly our own,” Stern said.

Over the years there were fights between Stern and Oregon officials as well as New Jersey politicians about sports betting. Stern eventually changed his mind about legalized sports gambling and came to embrace it. In the 1990s, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman succeeded in getting a portion of the Alberta hockey lottery diverted and placed into the pockets of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers ownerships. The NFL went to court to block Delaware from implementing a sportsbook at the state casinos which would featured NFL action. The NFL also went to court to block New Jersey’s bid to open a sportsbook and won. That all changed in 2018 when the Supreme Court of the United States sided with New Jersey. Legalized sports gambling is good, it makes leagues money.

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Minnesota Timberwolves’ Malik Beasley, left, is defended by Toronto Raptors’ Norman Powell during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)