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European sports-betting giant Betfair continues on course with a withdrawal plan from Canada which will see the company stop accepting wagers from Canucks in just one short week. Betfair, which finalized a merger with traditional Irish giant PaddyPower last year, will cease accepting the action from Canadians as of January 14th, 2016.
Betfair made its announcement with little or no fanfare last month, and to this day Betfair’s corporate site makes no mention of the site’s withdrawal from the company, a sizable English- and French-speaking market with about 36 million residents. Instead, Betfair’s customers in Canada found out through a simple,hastily drafted e-mail sent their way last month, which quickly found its way onto social media:
We are sorry to inform you that as of 14th January 2016, Betfair’s products will no longer be available to residents of Canada.
On 14th January 2016 Canadian residents will no longer be able to place bets and Betfair shall close it’s [sic] website. All outstanding Sportsbook bets will be cancelled, you will no longer be able to place new exchange bets and all gaming products will be blocked. Please note that all outstanding Exchange bets will remain in place until 14th January 2016, so please ensure you manage any positions you have open in advance of this date.
Please also ensure you withdraw any funds you have in advance of 14th Janurary 2016. You will only be able to witdraw any winnings, or leftover funds after 14th Janurary by contacting our helpdesk.
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Speculation surrounding the company’s exit from Canada centers on two main points. First, Canada’s sports-betting laws are, much like its neighbor to the south, the United States, a country-wide prohibition. Some parlay betting services exist in select provinces, but single-event wagering remains officially forbidden under Canadian law, even though an on-again, off-again legislative push to legalize sports betting may be on again, following the re-introduction of an important regulatory bill last month.
Those hopes received another boost from the winning of a legislative “lottery” this week that will allow one of the sports-betting bill’s backers to give the measure a high priority. Canada’s House of Commons has a rule dictating that no more than 30 member-introduced “private” bills can be slated for consideration, and sports-betting backer and House member Brian Masse was one of the lucky winners. He’s already announced his intent to push the sports-wagering measure, too. And as to why Canada uses a lottery draw to arbitrarily eliminate or promote legislation — this in a country with not-too-liberal gambling laws, anyway — we’d best leave to less reasoned minds.
It’s all too late for Betfair, anyway. Canada’s trade agreements with most European nations bring any gray-market offering by Betfair into shake legal territory. Besides, by leaving Canada, Betfair’s list of countries served will more closely match that of new wedding partner Paddy, which also once served Canadians but flew the coop back in 2011.
Betfair itself hasn’t been actively seeking Canadian business anyway. The company stopped its advertsing and marketing efforts there in 2013, even though it allowed new signups, deposits and withdrawals to continue on as normal. It’s clear that maintaining a low profile was always part of Betfair’s plan, but even that now seems too much once Paddy’s “No, Canada” stance was added to the mix.
Canadian punters don’t have that many alternatives these days anyway, and only a few of the sites that take that action can be considered reputable in a global sense. That shaking-out process seems to go on in all countries considering regulatory expansion of gambling, the better the way to clear the field for those getting official licensing approval when and if a regulator structure is put into place.
It’s unsure if that’s coming soon for Canada, or if he promise of legal sports betting will once again fizzle. For Betfair and its customers, however, a short-term separation is what’s in store just ahead.