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betting slip

You’d think a simple question like “is it against the law to bet on sports in America and Canada?” would have a simple answer. Well it doesn’t. It might come as a surprise to you, especially if you’re not a sports fan, but the waters of sports betting are seriously muddy.

Players in both countries have of course become adept at dodging the legal pitfalls of betting on their favourite past times – it’s human nature; you can’t really stop people from doing what they want. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave after all – yet compared to Canada those terms don’t seem so applicable.

Braveness is definitely a quality you need to bet on sports over there because a weaker person might just give up in confusion.

In this article you’ll get to take a peek behind that big old curtain obscuring sports betting in both countries. To understand a bit more about how things work in Canada, we have to see what’s going down in America first.

US of errr…

Bookmaking (i.e. a service provided by a person or company who takes money for bets on sports events) is completely illegal in America – except for in Nevada.

Thanks to a last minute addition to the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 which was a piece of US legislation designed to protect American ports, it’s illegal for banks to transfer money to online gaming sites. Which means it’s illegal for people to bet too. However, and this is a big however, fantasy sports, online lottery games and horse racing are permitted.

Many people believe that the decision to allow wagers on fantasy sports came about because huge American sports organizations pressurized the government. Why though? Because these major sporting companies were convinced, probably rightly, that letting people bet money on fantasy sports would make people more interested and more obsessive about sports. That would then lead to more profits for them and that wasn’t something these companies were willing to let slip through their hands.

There is a caveat though; betting on fantasy sports in the USA is only legal when the prizes are decided and communicated clearly to the punters before the games begin. On top of that, the size of the prize pot is not allowed to be determined by the amount of people betting on the game.

33 million Americans bet on fantasy football and it’s thought that over $1.18 billion is spent by them each year.

Canadian’s get in on the action

Bookmaking is also technically illegal in Canada, but that’s because the government owns the industry. So you can bet on sports but you can only do it through the official betting games offered in your local area.

The games are pretty limited though, plus you’re not allowed to bet on one outcome. Instead you have to play what is known as parlay bets – bets that are on several outcomes from at least two separate events.

Sounds like they’ve got it pretty good over there in Canada, right? Well not quite. There’s been continuous controversy over the way Canada runs its gambling industry and it’s easy to see why.

Fair game?

Whilst the Canadian government has never been accused of fixing sports games, there are plenty of players who feel that the game they’re running isn’t as good or fair as it could be.

The odds offered by Sport Select – the name for the group of bets run by the government – are so bad that people have been left dismayed. In most countries the bookmaker will normally do business with a 110% vig, which means they’ll pay out roughly $100 for every $110 their clients bet. In Canada their vig is 160% and can go all the way up to 300%.

The operators also occasionally set caps on particular bets. The Canadian government says they do this to stop professional gamblers from taking advantage of the system.

A common fantasy

Although betting on fantasy sports is illegal in Canada, betting on it through American websites is not.

With the bad odds and the poor selection of betting available to Canadians it’s hardly a shock to find that they’re getting their kicks online. As well as taking part in fantasy sports gambling, they’re also accessing offshore betting sites and bookmakers so they can place whatever bets they want.

Obviously, this is costing the Canadian government big time as the revenues they should be raking in are going abroad. There are no official figures on just how much money they’re missing out in, but it’s rumored to be tens of millions of dollars.

Out on the street

All the ins and outs of what you are and aren’t allowed to bet on have led to a strong betting black market in both Canada and America. ‘Bookies’ operate their own unregulated operations with members of the public allowed to place bets whenever they like. Unfortunately it’s not a win, win situation though. Research shows that the illegal proceeds from street bookies often go towards funding for drug dealers, terrorist and other criminal activity.