CFL Commissioner Ambrosie Embraces Canadian Legalization Of Single Sports Betting

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The Canadian Senate gave the stamp of approval to Bill C-218 on Tuesday. Also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, it is a Private Member's bill that was introduced into the House of Commons by Conservative Kevin Waugh, a Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Grasswood.  

The bill amends paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race - other than a horse race - or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest. 

By logging in at MyTopSportsbooks.com, Canadians are currently able to access their available betting options. While a number of different entities spoke in favor of the passage of the bill, one of the more fervent supporters of the decision to legalize single sports betting was Randy Ambrosie, commissioner of the Canadian Football League. 

Overwhelmingly In Favor 

Senators overwhelmingly supported Bill C-218. The final tally of the vote was 57 in favor, 20 opposed and 5 abstentions.  

The bill is now moving forward to the Governor-General’s office where once it receives Royal Assent, it will become a law. In the absence of a sitting Governor-General - Julie Payette tendered her resignation from the position earlier this year - Chief Justice Richard Wagner will fill the role of granting Royal Assent, which is generally nothing more than a formality. It would then be up to Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to determine a date as to when the law would come into force. 

Tremendous Pro Sports Backing 

Right from the outset, the leaders of the major pro sports leagues have thrown their considerable power around in support of Bill C-218. A little over a year ago, the commissioners of five of the major sports leagues that have franchises in Canada - the NHL's Gary Bettman, the NBA's Adam Silver, MLB's Rob Manfred, the CFL's Ambrose, and Don Garber of the MLS signed and sent a joint statement to several key members of government. 

"The National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the Canadian Football League support an amendment to Canada’s federal laws that would authorize provinces to offer betting on single sporting events," the statement read. 

"Sports betting gives fans another exciting way to engage with the sports they love. Because a legal and regulated sports betting market in Canada would be beneficial to sports and their fans, we urge prompt action to make this a reality.” 

More recently, Ambrosie testified before the Senate’s standing committee on banking, trade, and commerce in support of the bill. “This legislation is long overdue, it has been long awaited and it should be considered swiftly before the summer recess,” Ambrosie said at the time. 

Sports Betting Could Be CFL Savior 

The nine-team CFL canceled its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Estimates are that the cancellation cost the league between $60-$80 million in revenue. The CFL was also denied a $30 million interest-free loan it sought from the Canadian government.  

Ambrosie is viewing Bill C-218 as being the CFL’s version of the goose that laid the golden egg. 

“This may be one of the single biggest opportunities that the Canadian Football League has ever faced and it couldn’t happen at a better time,” Ambrosie told the Senate committee members. “We’ve gone through a very challenging environment with the COVID pandemic. We see this as a recipe for a quicker recovery as we come out of it.” 

The CFL commissioner thinks that not only will legalized single sports betting boost the coffers of CFL clubs, but that it will also drive up interest in the league across the country. 

“Our need to recover and rebuild from the pandemic is expected to extend beyond the current crisis and into future years,” Ambrosie told the Senate. “This has only heightened our desire to find new and innovative ways to engage the interest of our traditional fan base and, just as importantly, attract new fans. This is one of the major reasons we are advocates for Bill C-218. 

“We don’t think we’ve seen an opportunity for revenue enhancement to any degree like we have seen and we see in this particular Bill C-218. Perhaps a once in a generation opportunity for revenue enhancement at a time when we desperately need it.”  

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