Nova Scotia may be given the convenience of online sports betting

Canadians in the province of Nova Scotia may be given the convenience of online sports betting later this year, judging by reports in the regional media. The Chronicle Herald revealed this week that the region’s lottery corporation is searching for a software company that can build an online sports betting platform and the accompanying administrative support system needed to run it.

"In order to remain relevant to our players we must deliver what the player wants in the safest and most entertaining way possible," the Atlantic Lottery Corp. states in a tender bid posted on its website.

A spokeswoman for the Atlantic Lottery Corp. wouldn’t comment Friday about the plan when approached by the newspaper, saying the tendering process is highly confidential.

"It really comes down to a factor of intellectual property," said Courtney Pringle, from the lottery’s New Brunswick offices. "At this point in time, there are no details I can discuss."

However, the website gives details of the tender and the information that bidding closes on May 6 2009.

Krista Grant, spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp., said the authority can’t speak about the lottery’s plans.

The lottery corporation can legally run an online sports betting operation under Section 207 of the Criminal Code, but it can’t accept bets from people from other countries where such gaming isn’t sanctioned and other Canadian provinces would have to agree to allow their residents to make wagers, said Toronto lawyer and gaming expert Michael Lipton.

Predictably, at least one Nova Scotia politician is at odds with the scheme, the Chronicle Herald reports.

"The last thing we need to be doing is having [online gaming] in Nova Scotia," Liberal justice critic Michel Samson told the newspaper, adding that he was incensed that the lottery corporation would resort to online gambling on the heels of introducing the controversial Keno video lottery game.

Samson also questioned whether controls would be in place to prevent minors from making wagers online. "You’re dealing with the Internet. It seems to be a bit of a grey area. We’d certainly like to get a bit of an explanation as to how they’re going to cover this off."

However, legal expert Lipton said software is available to screen clients and ensure minors don’t get involved, and it’s easier to track betting patterns over computers than at land-based casinos.

Online sports betting started in the mid-1990s, he said, and Canadians have become more accepting, in part because technology has become more sophisticated.

"The Internet is with us, all around us at all times. The upshot is that (users) have learned to trust the system. There are jurisdictions that have very high standards that regulate [sports betting operators] them."’

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