More News of Progress in Canada

25 May 1999
While legislators in the U.S. remain intent on banishing all forms of Internet gambling that don't create revenue for the government or benefit elected officials, progress is being made north of the border. Last week, the Canadian Radio-Telephone and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that it will not seek to regulate the Internet because it doesn't have the right to do so. Meanwhile, Racetracks of Canada Inc., is heading an effort to amend Canada's criminal code to clear the way for legal pari-mutuel wagering on the Internet.

Section 204 of the Canadian Criminal Code covers exceptions to forms of gambling that are classified as illegal in Canada. Subsection 2 is the inclusion of horseracing over the phone among those exceptions. It reads:

204(2) Presumption

(2) For the purposes of paragraph 1(c), bets made, in accordance with the regulations, in a betting theatre referred to in paragraph (8)(e), or by telephone calls to the race-course of an association or to such a betting theatre, are deemed to be made on the race-course of the association.

Racetracks of Canada's most prominent member, The Ontario Jockey Club (OJC), has held several meetings in the past 18 months with elected parliamentarians in an effort to change the word "telephone" to "telphone and any other telecommunication devices." If they're successful, horse betting on the Internet will become officially legal in Canada.

The effort, which was initially brought to the table by the OJC, was originally taken to the courts unsuccessfully, so they chose to go the legislative route.

OJC Vice President Andrew Gaughan, who heads the company's business developments team, believes that the amendment has a pretty good chance because it makes a lot of sense. "Instead of having to log off the compute, where they (bettors) watch the race on our site, they'd be aloud to bet via the PC," he explained.

Gaughan also pointed out that the amendment would go beyond the Internet. "It will also enable at-home betting using closed-loop networks, hand-held devices or satellites," he added.

The OJC is also working with the Canadian Pari-mutuel Agency, the federal regulator of horseracing in Canada, to make sure the appropriate regulations are put in place if and when the amendment is accepted.

The technology amendment is part of a larger campaign by Racetracks of Canada to amend the code as part of an omnibus bill in which the association is also seeking to ease restrictions on tax deductions of losses for horse owners as well as an adjustment to The Canada/U.S. Tax Treaty to facilitate common wagering pools.

Racetracks of Canada Executive Director Stephen Edwards, like Gaughin, is cautiously optimistic and looks to the CRTC's stance as a sign that the technology amendment has a good chance of flying. "Obviously, here is a body that doesn't see it (online betting) as a danger," Edwards said.

If all goes as planned, the amendment will be enacted this fall.

Reference Material:

  1. Sport in Canada: Everybody's Business (Part V, Section 9, Subsection 4)
    Part of a report by Canadian Parliamentarian Dennis Mills, the Chair of the Subcommittee on the Study of Sport in Canada. The section among the referenced section is a recommendation that the Minister of Justice amend Criminal Code paragraph 204(1)(c).

  2. Testimony
    Racetracks of Canada's Stephen Edwards and Yvon Giguère brief the Subcommittee on the Study of Sport in Canada (11/5/98).