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Sports Betting Goes Big-Time

Despite sports betting being illegal for many years, wagering on the outcome of a race, match or game is a pastime as old as sport itself—check out our blog on the evolution of sports betting for more. And while decades of movies and TV have associated sports betting with the back-alley “bookie,” the reality is that the practice has become a mainstream form of entertainment, and this is changing the perception in the worlds of politics, professional sports and society at large. Today, sports betting offers an exciting way for fans to get closer to the action with some friendly competition that heightens the fan experience. Let’s take a closer look at how this fascinating and fun slice of sporting life is changing. 

What is a bookie anyway?

Before we dive into the topic, a quick bit of housekeeping: a bookie typically refers to someone in the underground gambling world who sets gambling odds, places bets and pays out winnings. Like many aspects of gambling, when you hear the term “bookie,” you may have an image in your mind that is far off reality. In regulated markets like Ontario’s, “bookies” are more likely to be computer programmers who develop and maintain gambling websites and apps.

USA vs. Canada: Different national anthems, different gambling rules

For starters, despite our proximity to one another, the sports betting scenes aren’t the same on both sides of the border. Depending on where you live, you’ve got different leagues with different regulations, professional vs. college sports, exclusive bowls and tournaments, you name it. On top of that, factor in the different gambling laws from state to state or province to province.

Legal challenges are changing the game

That said, there are some similarities. Notably, legal decisions that allow for more widespread betting. Down South for example, where Nevada was for decades the primary sports betting centre, a 2018 Supreme Court case brought by the state of New Jersey (Murphy vs NCAA) ruled that any state in the union could legalize sports betting.

Up here in Canada, our own federal government tabled a bill in 2020 that would allow single-event sports betting to be offered to the public (subject to other legal and regulatory requirements), similar to some of our American counterparts. Why change the law? According to Saskatchewan Member of Parliament Kevin Waugh:

“Implementing this change would be a massive boost to the tourism, sports, and gaming sectors, as well as a significant win for the workers and communities that rely on them.”

The key here is “single-event sports.” For those familiar with PRO•LINE, you’ll know that limited forms of sports betting were already permitted up here in the North. Speaking of which…

Canadians spend upwards of $500 million per year betting on sports

Even prior to this potential legal change in Canada, Canadians were already getting in on the action, albeit in a limited way. What has been permitted for some time is the betting style of “parlay” through the aforementioned PRO•LINE. Parlay bets allow gamblers to place multiple wagers on a series of match-ups, each of which must win in order to win the parlay. Compare this to single-event wagering, where your wager and result can be based on a single football, basketball, hockey or cricket match.

Legalized single-sports bets could stop $14 billion in black-market betting

In addition to the benefits outlined by MP Waugh, another positive result of the legalization of single-sports betting is to divert funds that may have otherwise gone to offshore bookies, back into Canada. According to the Canadian Gaming Association, this number stands at around  $14 billion per year as of 2020—that’s a lot of money that could flow into local economies here at home.

There you have it. Sports betting is changing and continuing to evolve. Stay tuned for more developments as time goes on. In the meantime, if you’re thinking of getting into the action, start by learning how to play PRO•LINE.