NHL dead against changes to Canadian gambling laws

A lot of Canadians still head down to Las Vegas and Atlantic City to enjoy the casinos along with visiting border cities which have built gambling resorts within easy reach of them. However, while gambling used to be strictly forbidden in the Great White North, there are now numerous casinos spread out over Canada. Perhaps the downside to this though as that they’re all owned and operated by the government and the drinks aren’t free.

The Canadian government has long operated lotteries though, and in some provinces these include sports-betting games where bettors have to wager on several contests at a time to win their bets. This is known as parlay betting and you can pick up and fill out these tickets as at just about any corner store and gas station. Canada has always refrained from offering single-game betting, but this could soon change.

There are some individuals and organizations against a proposed change to the current gambling laws and one of these is the National Hockey League. In fact the NHL and its commissioner Gary Bettman have been lobbying against Canada’s government as they don’t want to see single-game wagering legalized. Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner of the NHL, said the league has let the Canadian Senate know that it’s strongly against a new gambling bill and is hoping that it’s soon shot down.

Most Canadian NHL fans would welcome the opportunity to lay bets on single games and can’t really understand the opposition to it. At the moment they have to bet on at least two or three different teams in a combination of moneyline, over/under and point spreads and simply lay the money down. They’re then given a lottery-ticket type of betting slip which lists the odds, the picks, and the amount of money bet and possible winnings.

The types of sports-betting lotteries available vary from province to province and have different names. Most of the major sports and leagues can be wagered on, with the NHL being one of them. The lottery betting system has been criticized due to the poor odds given on games and the NHL has made it known that the government is raking in millions of dollars off of its back, but isn’t sharing any of the profits.

The NHL gave the Canadian government a written statement in 2012 which opposed the proposed changes to gambling. In addition, Simon Fraser University, which is located in the western province of British Columbia, also argued against changes as the school claimed it wouldn’t be able to gain full entry into the NCAA if sports wagering was legalized in Canada. When writing to the Senate, the NHL said that single-game betting will threaten the integrity of its games and it’s easier to fix a game with this type of wagering than it is in parlay betting.

While the NHL makes a valid point there, the only player on a hockey team that could really change the outcome of a game is a goaltender. It’s quite possible that players could be approached to fix games like they are in soccer, but NHL players make a minimum salary and it’s hard to imagine them risking their livelihood by becoming involved in match fixing. Many soccer games that are rigged are in the lower leagues where the pay isn’t that great and players are easier to tempt.

Bob Runciman, a Canadian Senator, said he’s not sure what the NHL’s problem is since the league has often talked about expanding to Europe, where it’s legal to bet on single games in many areas of the continent. He claimed that legalized gambling will reduce the level of offshore betting and could also help put a dent into the deep pockets of organized crime. When the gambling bill went to Canada’s House of Commons in 2012 it went through easily, but it still has to be approved by the Senate. It’s possible that it could be shot down, but the Senate has never ever rejected a law which has been approved by members of parliament.

The answer will come soon, possibly as early as April, when the final reading in the Senate will take place. Bettman and the NHL will be keeping their fingers crossed that the new law isn’t passed, while the majority of Canadian sports fans will be hoping it sails through and will soon be implemented across the nation.

By Ian Palmer