Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)

Sponsor

Brian Masse  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Sept. 21, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-221.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Sept. 21, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on behalf of the bill and convince members of its recognized merits. I do believe it is very important at this time for me to also acknowledge my predecessor in Windsor—Tecumseh, Joe Comartin, who provided me with a lot of history that I think will help members put it in perspective as well.

This is a concise bill that is simply the repeal of one very brief section of the Criminal Code. In effect, it would allow for sports betting on single sporting events in this country, in provinces that choose to allow it.

There are two reasons for my pushing for this change and for the widespread support that this has garnered. One is the economic development tool, as has been mentioned. It would provide communities with revenue, particularly those communities with existing casinos or race tracks 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 in those centres, some more broadly and others on a more limited scale.

We had a study done by the Canadian Gaming Association two summers ago, and it showed, for instance, that it would secure 150 to 200 new jobs in my region of Windsor, which has a very substantial commercial casino, Caesars Windsor. The same is true for the casino in Niagara. I mention these two casinos because they are immediately adjacent to the American border and 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. I will get to that later.

It would be a good economic tool that would draw tourism and gaming dollars from the United States and potentially from other parts of the world, depending on how it were deployed.

The other major reason that was the impetus for this initiative is that this type of gaming is going on now, but it is almost exclusively offshore, and in Canada it is completely controlled by and is a major revenue source for organized crime.

We have estimates of billions of dollars being gamed in Canada and tens of billions of dollars in the United States because it is illegal there. This legislation would strike a blow against organized crime by taking revenue away from it.

One of the major tools the government can deploy to fight organized crime is to take away financial incentives. This legislation would help us do that. It 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 United States and the Caribbean, we can see just from those figures that it is important that we move on this.

The other thing is that there is a national gaming association in Canada, and a couple of years ago it completed a study that showed the employment that would be created by making this into a legal business. For instance, in Windsor, there would be another 150 jobs directly secured for current employment at the casino in Windsor.

In the riding of the Minister of Justice there is a casino, and a similar number of jobs would either be saved or added and thus secured in this job creation.

The stakeholder support for this legislation is broad in both the public sector and the private sector. The legislation has support from provincial and municipal governments across Canada, as well as unanimous support from the chamber of commerce community and Canadian labour councils.

In addition, businesses and organizations operating in the tourism sector have expressed support, as well as firms in the so-called grey market, which is the legitimate multinational sport betting operations catering to Canadian clients on the Internet, who want to operate in a clearly defined and regulated environment.

I would also note, as my colleague from Windsor West has discussed, that this legislation has support from the law enforcement community. It is generally recognized as a safe, legal, and regulated environment around this activity that will detrimentally impact organized crime by significantly reducing its revenues from illegal wagering by providing customers with a legal option.

The previous legislation was originally opposed by all four major sports organizations in North America, the NBA, NHL, NFL, the MLB. However, since 2011, the NBA has completely changed its position on single-event sports wagering and the NHL is increasingly becoming involved in gambling after announcing a formal partnership with a major online fantasy sports wagering operation, DraftKings. In short, the leagues are coming to the realization that sports wagering can be an asset to their business and they are beginning to alter their position.

What is the best thing about the bill? It costs the government nothing and it generates considerable revenue for the province, which regulates the practice and puts funding in the coffers for adequate treatment. From this perspective, it is a safe bet indeed.

It is important to set the bill within a historical context, and I take this history from the esteemed member who held my riding, Joe Comartin, prior to the 2015 election.

If we go back and study this closely, the laws on gaming in our country go back to the 1600s in England. I believe Charles I was King at the time. It was a period of time when he was very worried about the military gambling excessively. Laws were 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, who is the immediate predecessor of Joe Comartin, the late 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 across the country.

Following in that tradition, this is one of those periods of time when we should have our criminal law catch up to 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 were 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 the list goes on.

Allow me to recap the reasons for supporting the bill. It would be a blow against organized crime. It would be a potential creator of good jobs for our economy. It would move additional revenue into the hands of the provinces that chose to allow single-event sports betting now that it would no longer a criminal act. It is a very simple amendment that does not require a great deal of effort to understand. I would encourage all members of the House to reconsider and support the bill.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-221 today, an act to amend the Criminal Code. This bill would modernize the Criminal Code by allowing provinces to properly regulate sports betting. If single event sports wagering were permitted, each province would therefore determine if and how it would be implemented.

The Canadian Criminal Code, which is enacted by the Parliament of Canada, sets out the parameters of legal gaming in Canada. However, since 1985, as a result of a federal-provincial agreement, the federal government has given up its right to conduct lottery schemes. Sports wagering is defined as lottery schemes in the Criminal Code and explicitly prohibits provinces from allowing wagering on any race or fight, or on a single sports event or athletic contest. This bill calls for the deletion of this section of the Criminal Code.

The bill would help modernize the Criminal Code to recognize the jurisdictional responsibility and reality of gaming throughout the country. If provinces were able to provide a legal, regulated sports wagering product, the economic impact would be significant, particularly for communities with casinos. A recent report by the Canadian Gaming Association on the impact of sports wagering on Ontario border casinos highlighted the benefits of offering a legal, regulated sports wagering product in the Ontario border casinos of Windsor and Niagara Falls.

Another thing that Bill C-221 would allow us to do would be to reduce the influence of organized crime. Illegal sports wagering includes both illegal bookmakers and illegal Internet betting companies operating within North America. While the exact size of the illegal bookmaking market is not certain, published reports by government and law enforcement officials suggest it is substantial. For example, based on a review of the annual reports of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, bookmaking exists in every region of Canada. According to the reports, gaming profits provide revenue to organized crime groups to fund their illegal and legal activities.

Once more, while the size of the illegal bookmaking market in Canada is unknown, it is thought to be significant. It has been estimated that Canadians illegally wager between $14 billion and $15 billion annually on single sporting events. Bill C-221 would allow the provinces to police this unregulated market, and in so doing return the economic benefits to our communities and reduce the influence of organized crime. It would afford the opportunity for bettors using illegal systems to use the safety, security, and surety of the government regulated betting regime.

I would like to mention that much support has been expressed for Bill C-221. Many validators, such as municipalities, associations, and corporations, have already supported this bill. Among those, there is the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, the municipality of Windsor, the Attorneys General of Ontario and British Columbia, and the Canadian Gaming Association.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my speech by thanking my colleagues who worked so hard on this bill.

I would like to start by thanking the member for Windsor West for the work he has done on this bill, not only in this Parliament but in the previous Parliament, and also my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh, and her predecessor, Joe Comartin, who worked very hard on this bill as well in the previous Parliament.

This bill is very important because it seeks to modernize the situation. Gambling is currently a provincial jurisdiction. We know that and this bill does not take away from that. However, the regulations need to be modernized. I appreciate this bill because it essentially seeks to establish regulations to help reduce, if not eliminate, the influence of organized crime.

This is not necessarily an issue that affects my riding. We do not have a casino. However, I know that my colleagues in Windsor have experienced this situation. Their expertise and that of the stakeholders who support our position illustrate the need to adopt new regulations and update the statutes governing gambling in Canada, in order to eliminate the influence of organized crime. That is the most important thing.

However, I cannot talk about this bill without raising an absurd situation that affects the work of parliamentarians here in Ottawa. I am referring to the fact that the Senate again delayed the study of a bill that then died on the order paper when the election was called. That is what happened to the bill we are debating today.

We believe that the Senate's undemocratic action impacted a private member's bill. The same thing happened to Jack Layton's bill on climate change. The House passed the bill, but the Senate failed to pass it by one vote.

No matter what an MP may think of the bill put forward by my colleague from Windsor West, it is absurd that in the 21st century, in a democracy, some senators can delay the study in committee of a bill passed by the House of Commons to the point where it would die on the order paper. They did not even get around to the vote.

That is why my colleague from Windsor West has to once again introduce the same bill after a federal election. Furthermore, it seems that government members are going to oppose it. The work done by a previous Parliament has unfortunately been undone by an undemocratic institution.

Many stakeholders in the sports community are interested in this issue. When the various sports leagues express their views, we need to understand their interests and their motivations. Of course, they like the existing regulations. However, the regulation proposed by my colleague in this new bill does not seek to make an existing problem worse. This is not a new bill. Once again, it could have been passed before if the Senate had done its job during the 41st Parliament.

Under the existing law, a person can bet only on a single sport event. The bill proposes to increase that number to three, which would reduce the influence of organized crime on gaming in Canada. If this was not the right approach, we would not have stakeholders' support on this.

When we got to the Senate, we encountered a problem. We appeared before the committee and nothing was certain. Senators were asking questions. I will admit that that is understandable and that those questions needed to be asked. Senators had to be given the opportunity to understand where we stood on this issue and what action needed to be taken. They wanted to understand the existing regulations and how the bill would change them.

That is a problem because we had stakeholders who supported the bill. Members passed the bill, and we tried to present an informed position on the subject. I commend my colleague from Windsor for trying again and pushing ahead on this issue, which is supported by the municipality of Windsor. The municipality indicated that it was in favour of the bill, as did the various gaming commissions, and not just in Ontario. Other provinces, such as Saskatchewan, were on board. My colleague just talked about it. It is very important to keep all that in mind when we are considering the situation that is currently before us.

I am really disappointed that the government is now saying it will oppose this bill. Maybe it is just me, but I did not hear a lot of opposition to this from the Liberal Party during the previous Parliament. Now the Liberals seem to have changed their mind, but they cannot really explain why.

Members from a region have put forward a bill that has the support of the municipality they represent and various provincial gaming commissions that regulate gaming. As I said at the outset, this is ultimately a provincial responsibility. When all of these stakeholders have reached a consensus on the bill and understand that we need legislation to make a necessary change, we are entitled to ask some questions.

The Senate took its sweet time, and then the election was called and the bill disappeared from the order paper. The Senate did its job, and now my colleague has to introduce the same bill all over again. During the previous Parliament, the government's party did not have a lot to say. Actually, it said nothing against this bill. Now it says it will oppose the bill. I find that so disappointing.

I must admit, I am getting to know the Windsor area. I do not know as much about it as I would like, but I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my colleague from Windsor West discussing this bill. I really understand the positive impact this bill can have in terms of eliminating the influence of organized crime on gambling in Canada. For that reason alone, the bill deserves our support.

I hope that the government will have the chance to reconsider its position. Finally, I would remind backbenchers that they are free to vote their conscience on private members' bills. I hope that this plea will reassure them, and that when the time comes to vote on this bill, they will not tow the party line but adopt the common sense approach proposed by my colleague from Windsor West.

I see that I am out of time. I will end there.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActRoutine Proceedings

February 17th, 2016 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-221, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for seconding the motion because it is a very important Canadian province-by-province issue.

I am introducing this bill, which many members of the House will know passed through the chamber in the last session of Parliament and should be law today. However, it was stalled in the Senate, despite support by this very House.

The bill, the “Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act”, would amend the Criminal Code by repealing one very small section, which would allow sports betting on single-wager sports events in our country by providing the provinces and territories with their choice as to whether they would like to make these changes and bring the option to market. Many provinces and municipalities have expressed support. Many private sector businesses, including chambers of commerce, Canadian labour councils, and tourism associations, would like to see these changes made.

We also know that the economic benefits from this bill would really stimulate the economy. A report back in 2011 concluded this change alone would generate about $70 million in Windsor and $35 million in Niagara Falls, and include hundreds of jobs, even more in spin-off activity in Canada-wide events.

Each province that chooses to amend its legislation could potentially benefit from this change.

Let us stop sending billions annually to organized crime through illegal sports wagering and, instead, put that money back into our social programs like health care, education, problem gambling, and infrastructure.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)