Single-Game Betting Bill Rewards Regressive Gambling Monopolies


Federal government should take the lead on gambling reform while changing Criminal Code


November 26, 2020

OTTAWA, ON – The federal government risks making a bad situation worse by taking single-game sports betting out of the Criminal Code without also encouraging provincial governments to reform gambling. Provincial gambling monopolies already operate as a tax on the marginalized, preying on the poor—and those playing hard to join them. Adding a new "product" for gambling monopolies to offer will heighten this injustice. Research by think tank Cardus shows that the poorest 20 percent of households in Ontario, for example, see an estimated 4.5 percent of their incomes taxed away through gambling. That's a rate 2.5 times greater than what the wealthiest 20 percent of Ontario families lose via gambling.

Cardus has also found:

  • Up to 24% of Ontario’s gambling revenue comes from problem gamblers.
  • Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) spends 4.5 times as much on marketing to encourage gambling as it does on problem gambling prevention and treatment.
  • Nearly half of OLG revenue comes from just 20% of the population.

 Cardus researchers found similar results in British Columbia, Alberta, and Atlantic Canada.

"While legalizing single-game betting will help solve some problems, it will worsen others,” says Johanna Lewis, a Cardus researcher. “The federal government should use this bill to encourage the provinces to reform their gambling monopolies into a tool that supports the middle class and fights poverty instead of operating as a highly regressive tax that raises cash disproportionately from low-income Canadians."

Lewis says there are several reforms the federal government should encourage provinces to make:

  • Using gaming profits to boost prevention and treatment for problem gambling.
  • Putting gaming profits into programs that incentivize savings for low-income families through lottery bonds, prize-linked savings accounts, or savings account top-ups similar to RESP programs.
  • Re-directing gaming profits into a dedicated fund for poverty reduction.

"The federal government should take the lead in encouraging provincial governments to reform their gambling operations to work for, not against, low-income residents," says Lewis. "The single-game betting bill is the perfect opportunity to do so."

Cardus research on gambling reform is available online:


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

About Cardus
Cardus is a non-partisan, faith-based think tank, and registered charity dedicated to promoting a flourishing society through independent research, robust public dialogue, and thought-provoking commentary. To learn more, visit our website, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Topics: Government, Gambling


Cardus is a non-partisan, not-for-profit public policy think tank focused on the following areas: education, family, work & economics, communities, end-of-life care, and religious freedom. It conducts independent and original research, produces several periodicals, and regularly stages events with Senior Fellows and interested constituents across Canada and the U.S.