moved that Bill C-221, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-221, the safe and regulated sports betting act.
I served in the municipality of Windsor for two terms and have served in the House for six terms. One of the things I have noted as a member of Parliament and formerly as a city councillor is that we often have time, energy, and opportunity to vote about spending in these institutions, including this one. This bill would give us a chance to increase revenues by taking them away from organized crime and putting them into the coffers of the provinces, should they so choose.
I am talking about the underground economy, the organized crime economy, and that of offshore betting that is taking place for single event sports. It is common culture in Canada, North America, and across the globe, but it is not regulated here.
The bill is an opportunity to redirect to the provinces approximately $10 billion which is going to organized crime, and that is a modest estimation. There is another $4 billion from overseas accounts and betting that is unregulated. Some are seeking regulation. The provinces could use that money for health care, education, infrastructure, for public projects that we support. This would dismantle a significant, if not the most profound, basis of monetary support for organized crime.
That is what we are talking about in the bill. It is not just fun, not just jobs, not just the reality that is taking place in other jurisdictions at our expense; it is about taking away the capability of organized crime to affect our society.
The bill was formerly Bill C-290, which was brought forward by my colleague Mr. Joe Comartin, the former member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the former deputy speaker. That bill passed unanimously in the chamber. It went through this chamber, went to committee, came back from committee and went through this chamber again and on to the Senate. It made it to the Senate, but there just was not enough time to pass it into law. We have had to table the bill in the House again to make sure that we get the job done. It is my pleasure to do so.
Things have changed. When we look at illegal gaming globally, it is a $500-billion industry, half a trillion dollars, not only in North America, but also in China and other jurisdictions. It is a trough fund that often goes to organized crime or other businesses that are unregulated and unaccountable. We know taxes have been a big issue in this chamber over the last number of weeks. They are not necessarily paying the taxes that they should. It is important to know that.
Currently, Las Vegas has a monopoly on this product for North America. There is the Super Bowl and other jurisdictional betting that has been taking place. There are around 30 million visitors to that area. There are significant revenues coming from tourism on top of that. It is not just the actual wagering that is taking place, but it is the tourism as well.
The bill would protect our jobs and economy. We have 250,000 jobs directly or indirectly related to the gaming industry in Canada. We are talking about places like Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Windsor, Niagara, Montreal, Halifax, and Charlottetown. Some people think these are just entry level jobs, that they are not significant enough to look at. How more wrong could they be?
There are value-added trained jobs that require education from our colleges and our universities. There is web design. There are slot attendants, cashiers, and blackjack dealers in a casino, and also industries outside that which are related to tourism.
I apologize for my voice, Mr. Speaker, but I was coaching hockey this weekend and it is hard to get 11-year-olds and 13-year-olds off the ice. I would say to my colleagues that it is a lot of fun but it takes a lot of energy.
When we look at the sports information industry itself, we see online sports information, statisticians, odds-makers, journalists, web-tech supporters, and marketing. All those things are so important for our value-added economy. They are also jobs where people can actually have benefits, a salary, and contribute to a pension, something all of us in this House agree should happen. Often there are pensions that relate to the private sector, a growth sector where we need to have pensions for the sustainability of our economy.
This bill has a number of different elements which the provinces could choose if they wanted to. There is nothing in this bill that would make the provinces do anything. It is all about choice. Right now in the federal Criminal Code there is a prohibition to betting on a single event sport or games. To do that, people go to the underground economy, whether it be organized crime or other types of venues, or with the click of a mouse they can go offshore somewhere. Canadians, Americans, and people across this planet enjoy single wager sports.
All that revenue is lost, unaccounted for, and does not lead to the results we need as a country. With that type of revenue stream, we would also have accountability. Most important, we would have the reduction of crimes committed from this unregulated activity. In Canada, that is $10 billion in organized crime and nefarious betting. Offshore we are talking about $4 billion and we do not know where it goes. We take that element and create jobs that have taxable income, that pay benefits, that deliver pensions, that bring in tourism. It would ensure that the billions of dollars of infrastructure that we have in our gaming facilities would be protected.
This is coming to the United States. It is not just Nevada that has a toehold and is alone in this. There are others, like New Jersey, that are moving toward this target, and others will soon follow. There is no doubt about it. Coming from Windsor, I can say that we watched as the province twiddled its thumbs about building a new conference centre, and Detroit went ahead and did it and took our market share quite significantly. We still do well with a good brand, a good industry, and most important, great customer service that creates a number of jobs. However, if we do not do this, we will lose out. We will lose billions of taxpayer dollars in infrastructure. That is not smart.
When we think about having a regulated environment, it is not just somebody in a bar, in a back room, or a basement who collects these bets. We are talking about going to gaming authorities of the provinces that choose to do so where they have age controls. Right now, if people want to make a single sports bet in our country, does anyone think that organized crime, bookies, or agents are carding people to make sure they are 18 years of age? I do not think so. I do not think that is happening. They will prey on those who want to bet. With legalized regulated betting, there are age controls in place, sports security in place, monitoring of lines, and regular wager bets that take place. That is accountability. Gaming authorities across Canada are the largest contributors to player education programs and self-exclusion programs.
People can actually go to the websites of the provinces that regulate this and get face identification. That is important. If people want to opt out of gaming and tell the associations they want to be prohibited from entering into casinos or other betting venues, they are allowed to do that. They can do it in the privacy of their homes. It is a self-awareness protection program. There is staff training that takes place to ensure that does not happen.
The scope of criminal activity associated with organized crime is best detailed by a quote that I have by Detective Inspector L.D. Moodie, who spoke at a Gambling, Law Enforcement Systems Issues Conference. He stated:
Illegal gambling, while appearing to be a minor part of a Traditional Organized Crime...network, is actually a foundation upon which most other illicit activities are supported. Illegal bookmaking, card dens and video gambling machines are Traditional Organized Crime's main source of revenue. Illegal gambling and related crimes such as loan sharking, money laundering and corruption provide working capital to invest in more legitimate enterprises, thereby strengthening their entire illicit operation.
They use that to transfer the funds to other operations, sometimes legal, sometimes not.
He further stated:
At least 8 murders have been committed in the Toronto area over the past 3 years that can be directly related to Organized Crime members dealing with the illegal gambling industry, whether by gambling debts or turf wars between the different Organized Crime Groups.
Plain and simple, there is a direct correlation. Do we allow this to simply happen, or do we take a stand here today and decide as members that we are not going to spend revenue on an issue. We get a lot of those bills, and that happens, which is a good thing, because they are good issues about changing Canada. That is not a criticism. However, in this unique case, we have found in all the evidence that we are simply shifting money away from organized crime and offshore accounts and putting it toward our public systems that are important.
By the way, the offshore accounts are not insignificant. If we were to google Canadian sports betting sites, does anyone know many hits we would get? We would get 530,000 hits for sports betting sites alone. On Canadian sports betting sites alone, we would get hits including Bodog, bet365, Pinnacle, and Betway.
Even more importantly, if we look at organizations, the NBA, for example, supports a regulated environment. It is saying it wants to be regulated to ensure that the quality of its product is not influenced by illegal factors. Knowing that this is the future, it wants to work with the government to do it. We could go to other sites, like the NHL site DraftKings. We could go on the NHL site right now and actually make a bet on the DraftKings website.
There have been major issues raised in the United States, other provinces, and other jurisdictions around the world that are now concerned with this unregulated environment that has no accountability. Forget about the Isle of Man, the Bahama issues, the Panama papers. We are talking about an annual stream of sports wagering that, if we do nothing, will continue to fester and undermine the intentions of the House and other provincial houses that are asking for this. They are asking for the right to do this. All we are doing is allowing that facilitation.
I do not understand. I can bet on three games in Ontario, which I will most likely lose, because with my betting skill that is usually what happens. I could bet on two games, which again would result in the same situation, I am sure. I can pretty well guarantee the success of an other team because I would pick the team that loses, on a single sports bet. That is, unfortunately, my history.
In all seriousness, it does not make any sense. It was borne from the frustration of dealing with problems from a time long past. Today we need to deal with reality, and that reality has been brought together.
In conclusion, because the bill does not require that money be spent but would create new revenue, it is supported by the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. It is very unique, very real, and it would be very wise for us to move it forward.