An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)
This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.
Joe Comartin NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second reading (Senate), as of Nov. 26, 2013
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-290.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment repeals paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race or fight or on a single sport event or athletic contest.
Private Members' Business
March 2nd, 2012 / 1:30 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
moved that Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, the bill itself is a very small, short bill. It would delete one small clause of the Criminal Code that prohibits anyone from wagering on a single sports event. It has been long standing in Canada that we can place bets on multiple sports events. Most people who are like me tend to follow one team, know a lot about the one team and do not know a lot about other games in the same league. The bill would do away with that prohibition. It has been in the code for a long time. It goes back to English history.
There are two reasons for my pushing for this change and for the widespread support that it has garnered.
One is the economic development tool that it provides to communities, particularly those with existing casinos or racetracks and other gaming operations. We have heard from some provinces, as they are the ones responsible for deploying this tool, that they would be placing the operations at one of those centres, some more broadly and others on a more limited scale. We had a study done by the Canadian Gaming Association last summer and it showed, for instance in my region which has a very substantial commercial casino, that it would either save or create 150 to 200 new jobs. The same is true for the casino in Niagara. The focus on those two casinos is because we are immediately adjacent to the American border. A number of bets would be placed by our American neighbours because this practice is illegal in the United States, with the exception of Nevada. It would be a good economic tool that would draw gaming dollars in from the United States and potentially from other parts of the world, depending on how it is deployed.
The other major reason was the inspiration for the initiative. This gaming is going on now but it is almost exclusively offshore. In Canada it is completely controlled by, and is a major revenue source for, organized crime. We have estimates of billions of dollars being gained in Canada and tens of billions of dollars in the United States because it is illegal there. This would strike a blow against organized crime by taking revenue away from it. We know one of the major tools a government can deploy to fight organized crime is to take away financial incentive. This would help us do that. The extent would depend on how many provinces use this resource and to what extent they use it.
I want to acknowledge the support I have had for the bill. I want to start with members of Parliament from all of the parties. We have had very close to unanimous support for this, for both reasons that I have already cited: the economic development and the fight against organized crime. People understand that. Members of Parliament understand it and are supportive that this is a good step forward. I also want to acknowledge the work by provincial governments, particularly Ontario and British Columbia. They have been very strong. They have already been working up plans, if this bill goes through, as to how they would deploy it in their provinces. I want to recognize the Canadian Gaming Association. It has done a fair amount of the background on this, including the study I mentioned. I want to recognize the Canadian Auto Workers Union. It represents a number of people at some of the casinos across the country and it has also been very supportive in pushing this bill forward.
Finally, I want to recognize both the City of Windsor and the City of Niagara Falls. Their municipal councillors have passed resolutions in support of the bill.
With regard to the process, we are at third reading stage now. At second reading the bill passed with no opposition at all in the House. It went to committee. It was supported unanimously at committee with one amendment.
There are still some negotiations going on in consultation with some of the provinces. The government felt the need to hold off giving royal assent, assuming it gets through the House and the Senate, until it finalizes those consultations. Members of the NDP are strong supporters of extensive consultations with the provinces. The legislation should not go through unless the provinces are fully aware of what the bill will do and its consequences. I anticipate that the consultation process will finish some time this year.
Now the bill is back in the House and looks like it has substantial support. I am not going to say anything further because my voice is about to disappear. I want to again thank all members of the House, both those who are here and those who in the past have supported it. I appreciate that widespread support.
Private Members' Business
March 2nd, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.
Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking in favour of the private member's bill of the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), as amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Bill C-290 itself is very brief, being only two clauses long. Clause 1 of the bill would repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code. Clause 2, which is the standing committee's only amendment, is a coming into force clause that would see the bill come into force on a date to be fixed by order in council.
The repeal of paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code would have the effect of permitting provincial governments to conduct and manage lottery schemes that involve bets made on a race, fight, single sports event or athletic contest.
Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether to offer single sports event betting and, if so, whether to operate the betting by telephone, Internet and/or land-based locations. Such provincial-territorial decision-making is precisely what now exists in section 207 of the Criminal Code with respect to other forms of lottery schemes, such as video lottery terminals and slot machines.
For example, under the current lottery scheme provision of the Criminal Code, only a provincial or territorial government may conduct a lottery scheme that is operated on or through a computer, slot machine or video device. A province or territory may not licence others to do so. Some provinces currently place video lottery terminals and slot machines in a land-based location such as a casino or a race track or another location. Similarly, under Bill C-290, a province or territory could place a single sports event betting operation in a casino, race track or any other location it might choose.
Furthermore, under section 207 of the Criminal Code, a province or territory may also conduct a lottery scheme in co-operation with another province. We know that the provinces and territories, using this authorization, have worked together to offer such national ticket lottery schemes, such as Lotto 6/49. Similar inter-jurisdictional co-operation would be possible under the amendment proposed in Bill C-290 for single event sports betting. A province or territory could choose to work co-operatively with another province or territory as it sees fit.
As I have previously indicated, it is important to note that Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether or not to offer single sports event betting, and if so whether to operate the betting by telephone, by Internet, and/or at land-based locations.
Conversely, it would be up to the provinces and territories to ensure that they consulted with sport organizations to ensure the integrity of the games on which single sports betting were offered, and it would also be up to the provinces and territories to consult with problem gambling service providers to ensure that single sports event bettors gambled responsibly.
On the issue of problem gambling, I would note that provinces in Canada have already dedicated major funding for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. In this regard, the provinces are far ahead of their counterparts in the United States and, possibly, the world. Quite rightly, Canadian provinces have addressed problem gambling because they hold the constitutional legislative authority for matters relating to health, including problem gambling.
Provinces and territories have had many years experience in conducting a broad range of lottery schemes. It makes sense that the range of lottery schemes that they are authorized to conduct be expanded to include single sports event betting.
It would also make a lot of sense to keep Canadian gambling dollars within a province or territory rather than sending that money to illegal bookmakers in Canada, or to offshore Internet betting sites that poach Canadian bettors, regardless of whether those offshore sites are legal or illegal in another country. Bill C-290 would be a step in that direction.
I support private member's Bill C-290 and will be voting in favour of it. Provinces and territories certainly have the experience to offer this form of betting, it that is what their electorate wants. On the other hand, if a province or territory chooses not to go in that direction, that would be its local decision.
I see this private member's bill as responding to a growing demand and as modernizing the Criminal Code's lottery scheme provision to reflect our circumstances in the 21st century. That is the direction we want to take.
Private Members' Business
March 2nd, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party members support the passage of Bill C-290. We acknowledge that it allows for wagering on the outcome of single sporting events.
I want to add a few comments. I do this from a capacity that I used to have during the nineties when I was the critic for lotteries in the province of Manitoba. That was when casinos and betting really became a major part of the economic activity of not only the province of Manitoba, but shortly after other provinces started to pick up on it.
The member who spoke prior made reference to some of the social costs of gaming. There are some horrendous social costs to it. All we need to take a look at the makeup of our prisons, which ranges from gambling addictions to suicides. There are all sorts of issues which are related to the negative side of gaming. As provinces move more and more toward the gaming industry, and now this will just one component of the gaming industry, compensation or resources should be provided to fight some of the social costs of having a very active gaming industry.
Over the years, I have had many discussions with different stakeholders that have expressed their concerns. I appreciate the fact that the reason we are passing the bill is because it is in provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, I say this more as a concerned citizen and someone who has a casino located within Winnipeg North. It is known as the McPhillips Station Casino. I have first-hand experience with numerous complaints that have ranged from everything from bankruptcies to marriage breakups to suicides to crimes that have been committed. If managed properly, and that is the key, it can be a win-win. It does provide economic activity. It is a great form of entertainment. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that there is a social cost to this. We do have a role to ensure that the resources are there to support that. Earlier we were talked about educational programs. We encourage provincial jurisdictions to take the responsibility of promoting responsible gaming. There are far too many people's lives destroyed as a result of this industry every year, if not every day.
We support the bill because it is under provincial jurisdiction, but we want the government to be aware of the strong social costs of gaming. There is a burden of responsibility that governments at the provincial level have to take, in some cases more seriously, in order to prevent the damages caused by irresponsible gaming policy.
With those few words, we are happy to see it pass.
Private Members' Business
November 1st, 2011 / 6:15 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
moved that Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-290 is a very short bill; basically one paragraph and a little over one line. If it were to ultimately becomes law, it would delete one section of the Criminal Code. The overall theme of the bill is to deal with a problem that we have in the country with regard to gaming, specifically being able to bet on sporting events.
As it is now, paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code prohibits the gaming on a single sports event in Canada. The effect of that does have some very serious consequences and I will go into that in more detail. However, by way of introduction, the primary purpose behind this bill is twofold: first, to create greater employment opportunities in the gaming industry in Canada and in all the provinces who pick this up; and second, at least as important, it is a blow against organized crime that has captured, controls and is making huge profits from it, as ascertained by all the reports.
It is important to set this in a historical context. If we go back and study this closely, the laws on gaming in this country go back to the 1600s in England. I forget who the king was at the time, but it was in a period of time when he was very worried about his military gambling excessively. Laws were then passed in Westminster to prohibit all gambling in the country.
Over the centuries we have eroded that position. In fact, to follow the history in my riding, my predecessor, Shaughnessy Cohen, moved a similar amendment to the Criminal Code that allowed for betting at roulette tables, which was prohibited at the time. It allowed for roulette tables to come into casinos in the country. Following in that tradition, this is one of those periods of time when we should have our criminal law catch up with the reality of what is happening in our society.
In 1985 the federal government effectively gave up the administration of gaming operations to the provinces. It was one of those periods of time when there was some trade-offs going on with regard to revenue sources. This was a mechanism for the federal government to create new revenue sources for the provinces. Since that time a number of provinces have moved into gaming in a variety of ways: lotteries, casinos, additional betting being allowed at racetracks, and we can go down the list.
The role that gaming plays in provincial revenues has become quite significant. It is now literally billions of dollars across the country. In some cases, provinces have declined to take on those operations, but in other cases, provinces have taken them on wholeheartedly and have expanded their revenue base as a result.
To the point where we are with this particular expansion, the provinces would determine how they would implement this. From talking to various provincial administrations, there is a variety of suggestions if the bill becomes law, but ultimately the provision of gaming on single sporting events would vary across the country.
For instance, one province is considering allowing the casinos operated by first nations to take this type of gaming under their control. Obviously, the province would still administer it, but the bulk of the revenue would go to the casinos operated by first nations.
One province in particular is thinking of a very broad expansion using the British model. The gaming would take place in a variety of settings in that province.
In my home province of Ontario, as I understand it at this point, the primary thrust would be to allow the large commercial casinos, the casinos operated for charitable purposes that are smaller operations and potentially the racetracks, to do the administration. It would not expand it into the broader society as some of the other provinces are considering.
Whatever the model is, it is determined by the individual provinces, and some provinces may not take it up at all.
I would note at this point that both the Province of Ontario and the Province of British Columbia are on record with letters to the federal justice minister asking him to proceed with this type of amendment. The government up to this point has not proceeded that way, although I am expecting, and I may be overly optimistic because this is a private member's bill, substantial support from the government side as well as from our colleagues in the Liberal Party.
I will turn now to the real thrust behind this and I will deal with the criminal element first. There is no question that this type of gaming is illegal in Canada as well as in all of the United States, except for Nevada, where it is in fact legal. The casinos in Nevada do allow for single event betting. However, all of the other states and Canada prohibit it.
The end result of that prohibition has been that organized crime has moved into this field in a very big way. We have estimates from the U.S. of revenues coming in to organized crime at a minimum of $80 billion a year. I will repeat that, because when I say that, most people think I said “million”, but I said “billion”. At the low end it is $80 billion, with the estimate running to $380 billion to $400 billion at the high end. That is in the United States. With some of the information we have from our security services in Canada, the estimate is that a minimum of $10 billion is wagered in Canada each year, and it may be as high as $40 billion. That is the type of revenue we are talking about.
All of that money is going into the hands of organized crime. We do not believe that any substantive amount is going into other people's hands. It is controlled by the large criminal organizations, most of which are based in the U.S., but some of which are based here in Canada.
Some of this betting is also taking place offshore through the Internet. A number of those Internet sites are located in the Caribbean, where there is no ability for either the Canadian government or the U.S. government to thwart that type of activity over the Internet.
It is a situation where this activity is going on. Certainly there are people who argue that we are just expanding the ability of people to become problem gamblers. I do not believe that to be the case at all. This gambling is going on right now, all within the control of organized crime as best we can determine.
We are talking about taking it out of the hands of those in organized crime, a strong way to reduce the revenue they are generating, and move it into the hands, in our case, of provincial governments. Let them use the revenue for the purposes of operating their government.
The second reason I have been an advocate for this legislation is the potential it has for creating employment. Obviously it would create a substantial amount of revenue for provinces, but in addition, we ultimately would see some of that as jobs are created at the federal level.
As recently as September, the Canadian Gaming Association, which has a number of gaming groups around the country as part of its association, did an economic analysis of what would occur if this were allowed to become law in Canada and we could have this type of gaming going on. It is of particular interest to me because the city of Windsor is the host of one of the largest casinos in the country; I think it is the largest, but there may be one or two of the same size.
The estimate was that the number of additional jobs or the securing of existing jobs in the Windsor casino, just that one casino, would be somewhere between 150 to 250. Some jobs would be saved because there have been some layoffs recently because of competition that we are getting from the U.S. side and just because of the general economic downturn that we have had recently, but we would secure those jobs or create new jobs.
The association did a similar analysis for the casinos, interestingly, in Niagara Falls, the home riding of the Minister of Justice, and came up with a similar number of jobs being secured or jobs that would be created. That is true across a number of other areas in Ontario and elsewhere in the country.
There is a very strong reason from that vantage point, not only the revenue that this would create for the provinces but, more specifically, the jobs it would create at the lower level.
I have spoken to some of my colleagues who have charity casinos in their ridings. They feel that a similar impact would occur. A number of these are situated along the U.S.-Canada border, and we draw a lot of trade from the U.S. side. For instance, in the casino in Windsor, the estimates continue to run that somewhere between 75% and 80% of the revenue comes from the U.S. side of the border. That is true even for some of the charity casinos. It is certainly true for Niagara.
The important part is that allowing for this type of gaming would attract tourist trade into Canada. People would come over. I always tell the story that I happened to be in Las Vegas when one of the national basketball tournaments was on. I remember sitting in Caesars, actually on the floor with all these students who were watching the game, knowing that they had placed bets on the game. That is the kind of tourism we would be attracting on our side of the border.
Let me indicate the support that we have had. I have already indicated that both the Province of Ontario and the Province of British Columbia have sought this amendment from the federal government. A number of municipalities, including the City of Niagara Falls and the City of Windsor, the Canadian Gaming Association, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation have all indicated their support. They have an appreciation from working in this field and this part of the economy of what the consequences would be and are quite supportive that this would go ahead.
I will summarize the reasons for supporting this bill. It would be a blow against organized crime and a potential job creator for the economy. As well, it would move additional revenue into the hands of the provinces. It is a very simple amendment. It does not require a great deal of understanding of what we are doing or why. I would encourage all members of the House to support this bill.
Private Members' Business
November 1st, 2011 / 6:35 p.m.
Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Bill C-290 would authorize a province or a territory to conduct single sport betting within the province or territory if it so chooses.
In order to better comprehend how this bill would modify the structure of the current provisions relating to gambling, I will briefly go through the history of the past and current Canadian laws in this area.
As members will notice, the gambling provisions in the Criminal Code are somewhat difficult to read and to understand. Nevertheless, a careful reading of these provisions shows that their basic structure is to prohibit all forms of gambling unless a particular form of gambling is specifically permitted by the Criminal Code.
Parliament has permitted such exceptions to the gambling offences as private bets that are made between individuals who are not in the business of betting. In Canada, we also have pari-mutuel betting on horse races, where the betting is conducted by a race association. Then there are lottery schemes that are conducted by a province or territory and the slightly narrower range of lottery schemes that are conducted by a licensee of a province or territory, such as a charitable organization.
Parliament has also authorized certain lottery schemes that are conducted on international cruise ships while in Canadians waters, if certain conditions are met.
Parliament included gambling offences when it enacted the first Criminal Code in Canada in 1892. There were some exceptions to the offences, primarily for bets made at a horse race. The provisions were expanded in the 1920s to include the exception for parimutuel betting on a horse race. That made it possible to put all the money bet on a horse race into a pool and the winners would share in the pool based upon how much they had bet on a horse that finished in a spot that entitled bettors on that horse to share the winnings.
A most significant change to the gambling provisions occurred in 1969 when the provinces, territories and the federal government were each authorized to conduct a range of lottery schemes. This followed closely on the heels of the reintroduction of legal lottery ticket operations in some U.S. states.
In 1985, Parliament withdrew the Criminal Code authorizations that existed from 1969 for the federal government to conduct a lottery scheme and it went through the authorizations that existed from 1983 for the federal government to conduct a pool betting operation. This left the field of lottery schemes exclusively to the operation by provincial and territorial governments and their licensees.
It was in 1998 that Parliament authorized international cruise ships to continue operating their lottery schemes when they enter Canadian waters and up until the first port of call, if certain conditions are met. That change was made at the request of provinces in order to encourage the international cruise ships to sail to Canadian ports.
Some provinces have offered a particular kind of sports betting as a form of lottery scheme to their residents. The structure of this betting requires the bettor to select a number of games and predict the correct outcome for those games.
Bill C-290 would make it possible for a province or territory to conduct a lottery scheme that involves betting on single games. If Bill C-290 passes, I do not know if any bettors would still make bets on the outcomes of multiple games, but I would imagine that the vast majority of bettors would prefer to bet on a single game and its outcome.
Of course, it would be up to each province and territory to decide if it wanted to offer single sports betting, but that will be their decision.
Under section 207 of the Criminal Code, a province may operate a lottery scheme on or through a computer, but it cannot licence others to do so because single sport betting would, by necessity, require computer operation. Single event sport betting is something that the provinces and territories would conduct themselves because they may not licence others to conduct a lottery scheme that is conducted on or through a computer.
I want to mention that a province or territory could choose to locate a single sport event betting operation in a casino or at a race track, for example, and it could share the profits from the betting however it sees fit. Again, these would be matters for provincial or territorial decision-making. I am assuming that decisions would be made by a province or territory with the values and desires of their residents in mind. That includes keeping an eye open to the measures that are needed to prevent problem gambling.
I can appreciate that not everyone thinks that gambling is for them. However, it is my view that allowing single sport betting, even through a provincial lottery scheme, is far more appropriate than what is currently happening in this country. Betting with an illegal bookmaker is driving money to organized crime.
Bill C-290 is a response that would give the provinces and territories the choice as to whether they wish to join countries such as England where there is legalized single event betting on sports. I emphasize that the provinces and territories would be able to make that decision based on the particular circumstances within their jurisdiction.
The provinces and territories are best placed to determine public acceptance for single event betting and to implement measures for responsible betting. They have decades of experience in conducting a broad range of lottery schemes, from lottery tickets, to casinos with slots, table games and to betting on the outcomes of multiple sports events.
For those reasons, I support private member's Bill C-290 and I will be voting in favour of it.
Private Members' Business
November 1st, 2011 / 6:40 p.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Madam Speaker, I thank the Liberal Party for allowing me to go a little sooner so I can get to another meeting tonight. I appreciate the camaraderie in the House, which does happen in this place.
When we think about private members' issues that we can bring forward as members, this is a very serious one because it is about the economy right now. It would provide some extra revenue for the gaming industry. Also, I do not think we should underestimate the issues with regard to organized crime. We are concerned about people with gambling addictions, but we know that sports wagering is taking place under the table, not just in Canada but across the globe. What is really important is that this would take away some of the financing from organized crime.
It is very appropriate that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is doing this from a local perspective, because we have a casino in Windsor. Sports betting happens in the United States where people take advantage of it. People go to Las Vegas and other areas where they can bet. This would be a benefit because we have a lot of competition from the U.S. with the high Canadian dollar right now. Also, the U.S. is bringing in a series of measures to tax Canadians, and there are other border issues.
We have seen a diminishing tourism industry. The HST being implemented had an affect upon tourism in Canada. Dropping the GST rebate was another blow to the tourism industry. Therefore, it is very important for us to see this as an advantage for us to compete against the United States in the gaming market right now. The U.S. has made efforts and has pushed to bring in single sports betting venues but it has not done so yet, except in Nevada.
From a global perspective, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is doing his job as a justice critic for the official opposition by bringing forth a solution and a way to tackle crime with regard to the revenue stream that we see happening in the underground economy. I applaud the member on both those fronts. I think that is important to recognize.
Sports betting should not be underestimated. We do not even know the full value of what is going on in terms of the estimates of organized crime and sports betting happening illegally. There have been some studies done and they vary wildly. Some say it is anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion annually. That is a big spread, but it is a lot of money that is actually out there in the system. Even if we could take a fraction of that by moving on this, it would be important, not just with regard to the employment aspect but also for ensuring that organized crime does not have an extra revenue stream in its repertoire. That is something I think Canadians want to see happen.
It is important to get the bill to committee and, hopefully, through committee really quickly. The sooner we get to this the better.
Coming from the perspective of a border town like ours, Windsor and Essex county, we have seen first-hand the difficulty with the economy. I note that in the supporters of the bill there is the CAW, the city of Niagara Falls, the city of Windsor, the Canadian Gaming Association, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission and several other provincial associations. One of the critical components of the bill is the way it would play itself out. Each province would have an opportunity to make its own decision. I am hoping that we will see the province of Ontario quickly grab onto this.
With reference to the challenges in a border community right now, this would be a shot in the arm for an area that has suffered quite a loss of jobs. I was on city council at the time when we tried to diversify the Windsor and Essex county area a number of years ago by moving into tourism. We were successful with a lot of different venues that we put forth but then there were other challenges. After 9/11, we saw the border change quite significantly. We now have more difficulty getting people to and from the border. This affects Americans coming into Canada as well as Canadians going out. We have extra taxes to pay and so forth. There were a few more problems for us.
We hear stories from the Americans that they feel hassled crossing the border back and forth, even by their own people. What has happened is that, with the artificially high dollar from the high petroleum industry exports that we are doing right now, we have lost. We have gone from basically 60¢ on the dollar when we brought in our tourism strategy, to parity or above. That is a significant shift over a small period of time.
We may think that eight to ten years is not that long, but it is when one is investing in a small business or in the tourism industry. This would provide a shot in the arm to attract visitors to come over.
One of the merits of the bill that is important to notice is that it acknowledges that the world is changing. When we brought the casino into Windsor, it did not have competition across the river but now it does. A series of Detroit casinos have now opened up. There are three casinos in particular, and there are also the aboriginal casinos that are in other parts of Michigan. We have a series of competition that we cannot deny.
In fact, if we walk down to the end of my street and look across the Detroit River, which is two miles, we can see one of the casinos there. Right across from the Windsor casino, Caesars, is the Greektown casino, and not far from there is MGM Grand. Therefore, we have a significant reality to deal with in terms of competition. Offering a different product would be an essential component of protecting those jobs and once again seeing more visitors come over from the United States.
One of the benefits of living in a border society is that we often traverse back and forth for different products and for entertainment. For example, I go to the Detroit Lions game. I regularly cross the border to the United States to see its sports entertainment. Canadian dollars go over there on a regular basis. Many Windsorites go over to see the Tigers, the Pistons, the Lions, all the different organizations that provide sports entertainment.
We would then be reciprocating a different product on this side. The bill by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is very timely as we have been watching Ohio enter into this market as well. Ohio has now opened up a couple of casinos, which has taken away the destination component that was often important. We had a lot of coaches that would come in with people from Ohio who saw the better service they would get at the Windsor casino. Caesars' product is very good. The brand is terrific. It is the only one outside of the United States. The corporation has made an investment to bring in live entertainment and other initiatives to keep the economy going and keep the jobs at the Windsor casino. People from Ohio would get on a bus and did not mind taking the extra step to come over the border to get a better product.
Now, however, we are competing to get the people out of Ohio because they are staying there. They do not necessarily say, “Let's go to the casino. Are we going to Detroit or Windsor? Which one should we select” and then get on a tour package or drive down and cross over. It was less of a big deal because they were making that effort coming from Ohio anyway. The bill would provide an opportunity for that element to shine as well.
We have some unusual opportunities that will happen over the next number of years that will enhance transportation from Chicago to Detroit. We cannot underestimate that market. There are tens of millions of people who live in that catchment area. Right now, they are moving forward on higher speed rail improvements. I look forward in terms of this bill giving us a marketing advantage to track from Chicago a number of different people who would visit our city. That is a market that we have not entered into much but it is something that we need. It is only five hours away.
The member for Windsor—Tecumseh should be praised for this initiative because he is using his time in the House of Commons to try to make better economic decisions and social justice by tackling the organized crime element. I commend him on that. We need more of that in this place.
Private Members' Business
November 1st, 2011 / 6:50 p.m.
Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE
Madam Speaker, I would echo the comments of my colleague who just spoke. I congratulate the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition for his thoughtful consideration of the matter, a matter that is important to Canadians.
We will be voting in support of this bill at second reading in order to send it to a parliamentary committee for further review and examination and to hear from witnesses.
Gambling in Canada is a properly-regulated activity governed by the Criminal Code that sets out the parameters for gaming. As has been previously stated in debate, up until 1985 the federal government was directly involved in running lotteries. It then devolved that through a provincial-federal agreement and the ensuing revenues went to the provinces. As a result, while the Canadian government maintains its legislative responsibility for criminal law, it is the responsibility of the provinces to licence and regulate all legal forms of gaming so long as the activities remain within the scope of the Criminal Code.
Betting on sports currently falls under paragraph 207(4)(b), which is the paragraph that is proposed to be amended by this private member's bill. It defines “lottery schemes” and explicitly prohibits provinces from allowing wagering on “any race or fight, single sports event or athletic contest”.
In reaction to this prohibition, provinces, through their provincial gaming corporations, have long offered parlayed-based wagering on sporting events. This allows for individuals to bet on the outcomes of three or more sporting events. We think of PRO-LINE, which is popular with millions of Canadians and allows them to wager on sports throughout the world, whether it is the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association or the one that is most popular in my house, the English premier football league.
These types of wagers allow individuals to choose the outcome of three or more sporting events, the odds of which are published in advance by the provincial gaming corporation. In order to win, a person must correctly predict all of the outcomes. For millions of Canadians, this is a fun activity. It allows them to be more involved in the sport they are watching or following.
Regulated gaming provides a legitimate and sanctioned activity free from tampering and has the effect of generating substantial revenues for governments.
Bill C-290 would delete the section from the Criminal Code that currently prohibits betting on a single sport and would allow provinces the ability to create a regulated environment consistent with their current gaming activities. For individuals, the change would allow them to bet on one match as opposed to three or more so long as the odds were predetermined and published.
It has been suggested by my colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, that several provinces have a desire to see this specific change to the Criminal Code. As an example, two of them, Ontario and British Columbia, have taken the additional step of writing the federal justice minister.
Why support this change? There is a lot of illegal gambling in Canada. Some of it relates to betting on single sporting events. Millions of dollars are spent illegally on single sport gambling and much of this activity is conducted by organized crime and bookies. It is underground and it unregulated.
Technology is also playing a role in the new gaming reality. Members will not be surprised to know that the criminal world adapts very quickly to new technology, using the Internet to exploit and make money from illegal gaming. Illegal sports wagering is all too common throughout North America.
The full extent of this illegal gambling is unknown, but some reports suggest it is massive. I will cite a couple of them.
The United States National Gambling Impact Study Commission has stated that estimates of the scope of illegal sports betting in the United States range anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion annually. We have heard these figures from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.
In Canada, a review of the annual reports of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada suggests that “bookmaking exists in every region of Canada”. According to the report, gaming profits revenue to organized crime groups to fund their illegal and legal activities. It says:
While the size of the illegal bookmaking market in Canada is unknown, it is also thought to be significant. If the range of illegal sports betting in the United States is accurate, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the range in Canada is between $10.0 billion and $40.0 billion.
These figures underline the seriousness of this issue and the need for action.
Regulated gaming provides a legitimate way for Canadians to gamble and, to be frank, it is a significant source of revenue for governments. Illegal gambling means lost tax revenue that provinces might use to provide more and better service to their citizens.
One sensible measure to combat illegal gambling is to change the Criminal Code to allow the provinces to regulate betting on single sporting events. It would have the effect of legalizing what is a common practice and deprive organized crime of another revenue stream.
While single-game betting is currently illegal in most jurisdictions, it is a booming business in other parts of the world. Online gaming is regulated and legal in many countries and they are reaping the benefit from increased tax revenues and profits. The largest component of this online betting includes sports and horse racing.
I believe this bill helps get the discussion going by pointing to a significant reality in Canada; that is to say there are legal and illegal forms of gaming and we need to address the latter.
I realize, as well, that some Canadians and perhaps members here as well, have, for various reasons, an issue with gambling under any circumstances. For them, there are some reasonable concerns. Like many activities, there are dangers involved in gambling. We all know, or have heard stories, of people who have an addiction to gambling with consequences that are serious and profound. A gambling addiction can overtake one's life. It can result in job loss, a broken family and financial ruin and we need to be sensitive to those concerns. However, for the vast majority of Canadians gambling is a fun and harmless activity.
In my home province of Prince Edward Island, for example, one of the highlights of the summer is our famous Gold Cup and Saucer. The Gold Cup and Saucer is one of the premier harness-race events in the world and one that has attracted thousands of tourists over the years. It is a great spectator sport, a great tourist attraction and a source of economic activity that is important to the local economy of Charlottetown. Tom Mullally and his team at the Red Shores Racetrack & Casino have done a wonderful job in preserving and enhancing this great island tradition.
I will be supporting this bill at second reading and hope that all members will do the same. It is important that we might have the opportunity to call witnesses at the committee to better understand the issues related to gaming in Canada. We may also have the chance to hear from people who may have concerns about this legislation and it is important that we hear from all sides of this issue before we proceed. I am sure the mover of the bill would agree with this as well.
Private Members' Business
November 1st, 2011 / 7 p.m.
Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak in favour of private member's Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).
At present, the Criminal Code only authorizes a province or territory to conduct betting on the outcome of multiple sporting events. That form of betting is sometimes called “parlay betting”. By way of contrast, a province or territory may not currently conduct betting on the outcome of a single game.
Private member's Bill C-290, as sponsored by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, would modernize section 207 of the Criminal Code, which is the “lottery scheme” provision by authorizing a province or a territory to conduct, within its jurisdiction, betting on a single sporting event, such as a single hockey game.
Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether or not to offer single sporting events betting and if so, whether to operate the betting by telephone, Internet and/or in land-based locations. Such provincial-territorial decision-making is precisely what now exists in section 207 of the Criminal Code with respect to provincial and territorial choices for other forms of lottery schemes, such as VLTs, video lottery terminals, and slot machines.
Under the lottery scheme provisions of the Criminal Code, only a provincial or territorial government may conduct a lottery scheme that is operated on or through a computer, slot machine or video device. A province or territory may not license others to do so.
Some provinces currently place video lottery terminals and slot machines in a land-based location, such as a casino or a race track, or in a lounge or pub. Similarly, under Bill C-290, a province or territory could place a single sport event betting operation in a casino, a race track or any other location that it might deem appropriate.
Currently under section 207 of the Criminal Code, a province or territory may also conduct a “lottery scheme” in co-operation with another province. We know that provinces and territories using this authorization have worked together to offer such national ticket lottery schemes, such as Lotto 6/49. Similar inter-jurisdictional co-operation would be possible under the amendments proposed in Bill C-290 for single event sports betting. A province or territory could choose to work co-operatively with any other province or territory.
Similarly, it would be up to the provinces or territories to ensure that they consult with the sport organizations to ensure the integrity of the game on which the single sport event betting is being offered. Similarly, it would be up to the provinces and territories to consult with problem gambling service providers to ensure that single sport event betters gamble responsibly.
I have been talking today about single sport event betting that would be conducted by a province or territory as a lottery scheme under the authority of section 207 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It is worth remembering that section 204 of the Criminal Code already authorizes any bet, so long as it is done between persons who are not in any way engaged in the business of betting. In Canada we are free to spend our money on a bet if we so choose, so long as we are betting with another private individual who is not in any way engaged in the business of betting.
Historically Parliament has not been concerned with betting between private individuals, but rather with illegal bookmakers who entice betters with credit and who charge exorbitant rates of interest on any debt. Parliament should maintain that concern for illegal bookmaking which has links to organized crime, as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has correctly pointed out.
If a province or territory chooses to operate a lottery scheme under the amendment proposed in Bill C-290, there would be a benefit to betters who wish to bet on a single game, but have difficulty finding another person to take the opposite side of the proposed bet. Also, in provinces and territories that choose to operate single sport event betting, betters who currently bet with illegal bookmakers would have the opportunity to bet with a legal operation conducted by their province or territory. The profits from legal single sport event betting would support provincial programs and services rather than being channeled by illegal bookmakers into organized crime.
Provinces and territories have had many years' experience in conducting a broad range of lottery schemes. It makes sense that the range of lottery schemes that they are authorized to conduct be expanded to include single sport event betting.
Finally, it also makes a lot of sense to keep Canadian gambling dollars within a province or territory rather than sending the money to illegal bookmakers in Canada or elsewhere, or to offshore Internet betting sites that poach Canadian bettors regardless of whether those offshore sites are legal or illegal in the host country. Bill C-290 would be a step in correcting this and a step in the right direction.
For all those reasons, I support Bill C-290 and will be voting in favour of it.
Provinces and territories have the experience to offer this form of betting if that is what their the electorate wants. On the other hand, if a province or territory chooses not to go there, that again is the province's decision to make, and it falls within the province's constitutional jurisdiction.
I support this private member's bill. I see it as responding to a growing demand for the modernization of the Criminal Code “lottery scheme” provision. It reflects our circumstances in the 21st century.
For those reasons, I will be supporting the bill. I congratulate the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for bringing this important matter forward.
September 28th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).
Mr. Speaker, this is a very simple bill, matching the personality and character of the person moving it.
It is simply a repeal of one very small section of the Criminal Code. Its effect would be to allow for sports betting on single sporting events in this country.
This is a very important bill from this perspective. That industry is very big, and it is entirely controlled by organized crime at the present time, both here and in the United States, because it is generally illegal in the United States to bet on one sporting event.
The estimate in the United States is that $30 billion a year is bet on that, all going into the pockets of organized crime and some of it offshore. It is estimated that as much as $2 billion is spent in Canada annually, with all of that money going out of the country to organized crime syndicates in the U.S. and the Caribbean, so it is quite important that we move on this.
The other thing is that there is a national gaming association in Canada. It just completed a study that shows the employment that would be created by making this into a legal business. For instance, in Windsor there will be another 150 jobs either saved or added to the current employment in the Windsor casino. In the riding of the Minister of Justice there is a casino, and a similar number of jobs would either be saved or added. It is job creation.
The Province of Ontario has signalled that it is very interested in placing this operation in the casinos in that province. Other provinces are taking different perspectives on it, but there is widespread support for this bill, and I am seeking support from all members of Parliament when it comes up for second reading.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)