House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was financial.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2012 / 1:30 p.m.

NDP

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.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

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.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

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.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the issue that has been raised with regard to problem gambling.

I was on the first public board for casinos in Ontario, which was an administrative board initially. I am proud of the work that I did in that period of time with regard to demanding, insisting and cajoling the provincial government to put additional resources into dealing with the problem of compulsive gamblers.

The point that always needs to be made when we are looking at this legislation is that this gaming is going on now. We also know, from a number of studies that have been done, that there is at least some reasonable expectation that once that form of gaming is legalized there is an increased opportunity and probability that the compulsive gambler will be, one, identified, and two, encouraged to get assistance. There are very few compulsive gamblers who cannot be treated. It is like any other addiction. With the right type of counselling and professional assistance, it can be beat.

All of the big casinos in Ontario have locations on site where compulsive gamblers can go to or be directed to. I do not think we spend enough money on it. I want to be clear on that. I have said repeatedly, as I have worked on this project, that the provinces that deploy this should be morally compelled, if nothing else, to look at the problem of compulsive gambling, to see how much they are spending in their provincial jurisdictions and to seriously consider increasing the amount they spend so professional counselling and treatment is more widely available.

I have looked at some studies that break it down province by province and the per capita spending is quite dramatically different. Ontario and Quebec lead the way. B.C. is fairly far behind in spite of the amount of legal gambling that goes on there. It would be in the best interests of all of the provinces if they looked at the issue and dedicated additional resources.

The final point I want to make, which I meant to make in my opening remarks, is that, as we all know, assuming this bill passes and goes to the other House, I have spoken to members of the other House and I have a sponsor. Senator Runciman has agreed to sponsor the bill in the other House. I know he is looking forward to it getting there so that he can encourage its rapid passage at that level.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 1:50 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:50 p.m.)