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 ActStatements By Members

June 16th, 2016 / 2 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, later today my Bill C-221 will be debated in the House of Commons for the second time before going to a vote. I would like to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his support for this bill.

This bill would allow single-event sports betting, which is critical for the Canadian economy. Most important, it would take away $14 billion of money to organized crime and unregulated offshore betting taking place right now in a market that induces our youth. The money it supplies to organized crime can be rerouted to public infrastructure, health care, education, gaming addiction, and a number of different priorities that Canadians want.

Sports analysts across the world are coming to the conclusion that regulation is necessary for this activity. This bill, to be clear, would allow the provinces to do this if they so choose. It would not make them do anything. Why would Liberals be opposed to the province of Ontario? Are they listening anymore?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-221. After carefully considering the bill and reviewing the earlier debate on the subject, I want to advise the House that I cannot and will not be supporting it. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to authorize a province or territory to conduct betting on a single sporting event, which is sometimes called “head-to-head betting”. Bill C-221 would essentially replicate former Bill C-290 of the previous Parliament.

The bill would delete paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code, meaning that the current prohibition on provinces and territories against conducting single-event sports betting would be removed. Currently, section 207 of the Criminal Code authorizes provinces and territories to conduct betting on multiple sporting events, which is normally called “parlay betting”. The current gambling provisions in the Criminal Code criminalize all other forms of gambling, except those that are specifically authorized by the Criminal Code.

I understand that the provinces and territories would stand to gain a substantial increase in gambling revenues if Bill C-221 were to pass. For casinos that have proximity to a city in the United States that has no legal, single-event sports betting, there could be a strong market advantage. Canadian border cities with casinos might see some additional economic development benefits.

While I appreciate the economic advantages that the proposed reform could bring about, the big concern I have to share is the impact that this proposed change could have on individuals and families, the social costs of gaming.

I would like, now, to turn to the very important issue of gambling addiction.

The dangers involved with gambling addictions are serious and profound. Problem gambling is associated with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicide. It can also affect family and marital relationships, work and academic performance, loss of material possessions, and it can lead to bankruptcy and, certainly, crime.

Provinces and territories spend millions of dollars toward the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. They offer a variety of services and treatments that have been derived from many different methods of counselling and therapy to assist those who have a compulsive gambling problem, as well as family members of those who suffer from this problem.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to the problems arising from gambling. A 2014 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, in Toronto, found that 35% of students in grades 7 to 12 gambled at least once in the past year. Another study found that a quarter of Ontario students with gambling problems reported a suicide attempt in the past year, roughly 18 times higher than in the general population.

I believe that if Bill C-221 were to pass, the costs to the provinces and territories would inevitably increase. More important, the cost to individuals, families, and society would increase.

We must also consider the issue of illegal bookmaking. Illegal bookmakers enjoy a monopoly on single-event sports betting. Police report that bookmakers are connected to organized crime.

We know that numerous Canadians illegally bet on single-event games. In my view, even if Bill C-221 were to pass, the vast majority of those who bet with illegal bookmakers would continue to do so. This is because bookmakers extend their credit directly to the bettor, unlike the provinces and territories. Illegal bookmakers also have lower overhead costs and can offer more favourable betting odds. Bill C-221 would do nothing to change the attractions offered by illegal bookmakers.

Sports leagues are rightly concerned to ensure that there is no match fixing. Professional sports leagues previously have strongly opposed similar bills. They have argued that allowing single-game betting would open a Pandora's box of match fixing and social problems associated with gambling. The integrity of sport is critical to maintaining the interest, respect, and loyalty of sports fans.

In my view, while the sponsor's stated objectives are indeed laudable, the proposals would not achieve the desired objectives without doing significant harm to society and increasing the already high social costs of gambling. For that reason, I will not be supporting the bill and do not recommend that it be sent forward to a legislative committee for its consideration.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2016 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-221, also called the safe and regulated sports betting act.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague and neighbour, the member for Windsor West, for introducing this bill. It is an important piece of legislation. It seeks to delete paragraph 207(4)(b) from the Criminal Code, which explicitly prohibits wagering on any race, fight, or single sports event or athletic contest.

The bill may sound familiar, and for good reason. It was previously introduced by my friend, Joe Comartin, the now retired member for Windsor—Tecumseh. He did more than just introduce it, though. His bill was debated in this place, passed in a vote at third reading, and sent to the Senate. Unfortunately, it languished in the Senate for years before dying on the Order Paper with the dissolution of the 41st Parliament.

It is shameful that the Senate did not do its job and that it prevented the passage of legislation that was passed by elected MPs in the House. Therefore, I thank the member for Windsor West for choosing to reintroduce his former colleague's bill and for his continued work serving his community in the region of Windsor-Essex.

As I mentioned, Bill C-221 would remove the clause in the Criminal Code that prohibits betting on “on any race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest”. Betting on sporting events is not illegal in Canada. Since 2005, Canadians have spent around $500 million annually betting on sports legally. What this bill would do is make betting on a single event legal.

Right now, individuals are required to bet on at least two events. In Ontario, the minimum is three. This so-called parlay system is under the jurisdiction of the provinces, as is all operating, licensing, and regulating of legal gambling. Bill C-221 would simply allow for single sports betting to come under the purview of the provinces as well.

The safe and regulated sports betting act is very relevant to the people who live in my riding of Essex. A large employer and attraction in our region is the world-class Caesars Windsor casino. People come from all over southwestern Ontario and the American Midwest to visit Caesars, both for its entertainment purposes and to enjoy the many other tourist attractions of the Windsor-Essex region. Local residents know how much Americans love coming over to Caesars. All anyone has to do is look at the border traffic on any weekend in Windsor.

Americans choose to come to Windsor-Essex even though Detroit casinos may be more convenient for them. They like coming to Canada, especially now with the lower dollar. The legislation before us today would give casinos like Caesars a competitive advantage over their competition south of the border. This is good for Canadian jobs, tourism, and economy.

Currently, only Las Vegas, Nevada, offers legal single sports betting in North America. Think about that. If people want to place a legal wager on the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup, or a Stanley Cup finals game, the only place they can do so is Las Vegas. For the Super Bowl weekend alone, there are estimates that nearly $116 million were generated.

There is tremendous economic opportunity here. Gaming is the largest sector of the entertainment industry. It directly supports more than 128,000 full-time jobs and generates $8.7 billion in revenue to governments and first nations groups. A Canadian Gaming Association study estimates that the introduction of single sports betting would generate $70 million in revenues and nearly $31 million in ancillary revenues to the Windsor-Essex region. Other border regions with casinos would similarly benefit.

Many communities stand to gain from this new source of revenue that would be returned, in part, to the community. It has been estimated that allowing single sports betting could create 100 direct jobs at Caesars Windsor. This is huge for my region, which has stubbornly high unemployment rates. Over the past decade alone, it has lost well over 10,000 good manufacturing jobs. The region needs new opportunities. This is why my colleague's bill has widespread support, including from the city of Windsor, the city of Niagara Falls, the Canadian Gaming Association, and the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

A delegation came to Ottawa earlier this year to encourage parliamentarians to support this bill. Representatives came from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Gaming Association, and others. Despite the bill's broad support, the government has said it opposes Bill C-221 because it could potentially have negative impacts on those who struggle with gambling addictions. This is a serious concern and something to which I am very sensitive. Addiction is a serious problem, one that can destroy the lives of people and families in our community. Let us not underplay that.

However, I do not see any evidence put forth by the government to support its claims that Bill C-221 would encourage gambling problems. It is important to note that single sports betting already happens in Canada, but it is illegal and unregulated. In fact, it is estimated that the size of the market is in the $14 billion to $15 billion range. It is operated by illegal offshore gaming companies or organized crime rings. These are unregulated and unsafe venues. Yet, every day, people hand over their credit card information to these offshore websites and incur big amounts of debt. These organizations will not hesitate to prey on the vulnerable and they do not help to provide services that benefit the public.

Simply continuing the prohibition on single sports betting, as the government seems to favour, will do nothing to stop these organizations from profiting off of Canadians. According to reports by the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, bookmaking exists in all regions of Canada, and gambling, including sports betting, is used as a funding tool for organized crime. A legal and regulated single sports betting industry would undermine the client base of illegal gambling venues. Legalization would not only reduce their profits by providing customers with a legal alternative, but it would also protect law-abiding citizens.

For those who currently participate in single sports betting by dealing with criminal groups, a regulated industry would provide a safe alternative. This safe alternative would be of greatest benefit to those suffering from an addiction to gambling. As I have said, we need to support those who need our help, and continuing this prohibition on single sports betting impairs our ability to do this. Instead of being exposed to the opportunities and services available to them in a safe, legal, and regulated environment, those suffering from gambling addiction are forced to interact with predatory and criminal enterprises. This is dangerous to their personal safety and financial health, and also detrimental to their ability to heal. Do members think organized crime groups are contributing money to anti-addiction efforts, supports, or services? Of course not. The provinces do this.

Measures are in place to support people with gambling addictions. In Ontario, there is a Responsible Gaming Resource Centre operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. The one in Caesars Windsor is open seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. These centres provide people with information about community services available to help them fight addiction and also help them learn about safe gaming practices. According to the website rgrc.org, over 170,000 people receive services from these centres.

There are other resources available to those who wish to seek help with their addiction. These include Ontario's self-exclusion program, where individuals can request to be denied access to OLG facilities; and also the playsmart.ca website, which is full of excellent resources. It is incredibly important to have a strong network of services to support people with these addictions.

Bill C-221 would not legalize something that does not already happen. Single sports betting happens every day in Canada. What we are talking about here is providing the opportunity for the provinces to be able to regulate and co-ordinate in a safe environment. We know and believe that moderation is the key to responsibly enjoying other forms of gaming. This principle should be applied to single sports betting.

Let us take the money out of the hands of criminal groups and put it to work for our communities. Providing a safe and legal environment for Canadians and providing the vulnerable with better addictions services absolutely deserve all of our support.

I want to encourage my colleagues to give serious consideration to supporting this bill at second reading. I urge all members to vote in support of the safe and regulated sports betting act.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-221, an act to amend the Criminal Code on sports betting, put forward by my colleague, the MP for Windsor West.

Before I start, I would like to say a few things about the MP for Windsor West.

I cannot think of a better champion for his or her community than that MP, the dean of the NDP caucus. Not only is he a voice of reason in our party and in the House, but he is also a tireless defender of his community. This bill shows he has a deep understanding of how his region works, the needs of his region, and is prepared to put forward positive ideas and proposals to make the local economy better.

This bill, in brief, proposes to modernize the Criminal Code to allow provinces to regulate single-event sports betting. In doing so, the member argues, in putting his bill forward, that it would add economic benefit to not just his community, but many Canadian communities, and reduce the influence of organized crime.

I will speak a bit about those two points. I am supporting the bill for a different reason, which I will share shortly.

Bill C-221 would amend the Criminal Code by deleting a section in it which explicitly prohibits provinces from allowing wagering “...on any race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest”. The bill would allow for wagering on the outcome of a single sporting event, and many Canadians are probably confused that we do not already have this. This is a throwback law that has been in place for a long time, and in a lot of people's views, unnecessarily.

There has been a shift in how betting laws are regulated in Canada. The federal government has decentralized a lot of this control to the provinces over the years. Provinces are currently responsible for operating, licensing, and regulating all legal forms of gambling, including the lottery schemes. This is really because each region, each province, has individual needs and, of course, different cultures for gambling and related events.

Perhaps there are different views among the populations that have to be reflected in provincial laws, which makes sense. It is not as if we do not have unregulated betting at all. It is handled by the provinces.

There was too much regulation at one point, and now we are kind of reaching a point that we have decided that the provinces will take care of all of this. Therefore, each province determines the type, amount, and location of gaming activity that is available in their jurisdiction, which seems right to me.

Since 1985, gaming facilities have been established in most provinces, offering a diverse range of options, including slot and video machines, card games, and games of chance such as Roulette and Craps. In greater Vancouver, we have seen a kind of flourishing of the gaming industry, but a moderate flourishing. When this started, a lot of people thought it would be a very bad and intrusive industry that would change the very nature of our communities. However, it does not seem to have had that impact, although it has had both positive and negative impacts.

The key is that at least it is regulated now. At least the provincial governments get a significant amount of revenue from these industries. Not only provincial governments but municipalities and charities also receive a significant benefit from gambling.

Gaming is one of the oldest activities in the world. It is proper to regulate it, again, much like marijuana. It is something that happens, and government involvement is important. Also, it would lead us to recover some of the revenue so we could help support things like addiction services and counselling when people have trouble with these activities.

Oversight in this industry has been decentralized to the provinces, but the Criminal Code still applies to some aspects of the gaming industry, including single-event sports betting. Therefore, if this proposed law were in place and single-event sports wagering were permitted, each province would determine how and if it would be implemented.

It is not like passing this law would all of a sudden open up single sports betting right across Canada. It would still be up to the provinces to decide if they were going to allow it and what the laws would look like in each province.

The public is not losing control of this industry or oversight of this industry, it is just being decentralized to the provinces, who, I would say, are in better shape to make decisions about those more localized communities.

We heard some arguments today about the economics of this industry. Gaming is an important contributor to the Canadian economy. It is the largest segment of the entertainment industry, and supports more than 128,000 full-time jobs, with another 283,000 indirect jobs. It generates almost $9 billion in revenue for government and community programs. It is nothing to sneeze at, and it is something to take very seriously.

I am glad my colleague from Windsor West has brought the bill forward. It allows us to have these kinds of debates. Again, it puts pressure on the government to consider if, indeed, we are regulating this industry in the correct way.

The reason why single-event sports betting is important is that it would give the Canadian gaming industry an edge over the American gaming industry. In British Columbia, where I am from, although there are local casinos, most people talk about going to Las Vegas. Lots of British Columbians fly to Las Vegas to bet down there. One reason is single-event sports betting, which is allowed in Las Vegas but not in British Columbia.

One could imagine the reverse flow of residents and gamers if this were allowed in British Columbia, starting here with this law and then regulation by the province. It would reverse the flow of that money. That is an important consideration. We all know we are in tough economic times. This would be important.

Now in Vancouver, with a fairly robust economy, maybe this would not make a huge difference, but in some communities along the border, this would make a difference, especially from what I am hearing from my colleagues in Windsor. No other states have legalized single-event gaming operations, so this would give Canadian gamers an edge. My colleagues have said it very well, that this is occurring. These betting activities are occurring, but mainly illegally in Canada. What this allows us to do is capture the revenue that we are losing.

Again, the government has made the same claims about legalizing marijuana, saying that when it is an illegal substance it is only dealt with in an illegal way and all the profits remain in the hands of organized crime. That is why they are arguing they should legalize marijuana. It would allow the government to regulate and capture this revenue. The same case could be made for single-event sports betting.

We have heard opposition from the other side, and we have heard a number of Liberals say that they are not going to support the bill. They have in the past, and I am hoping that they again reflect on what they are denying Canadians by voting against the bill.

In terms of organized crime and the effects of organized crime in this area, illegal sports wagering includes both illegal bookmakers and illegal Internet betting companies operating in North America. It is hard to estimate the size of black markets, but according to the American Gaming Association, Americans spent almost $140 billion on illegal betting last year. In Canada it is harder to get a sense of what illegal gambling brings in, but it is estimated that it is between $14 billion and $15 billion, only on single-event sports betting.

One can imagine the amount, if this entire industry were regulated, in two ways: first, if we were able to capture revenue on the $14 billion to $15 billion, and second, if we were able to attract some of the American betters.

I am not a huge fan of gambling. It may seem strange to say that after this speech but I have talked to my constituents. I opposed a mixed martial arts bill that came from the Senate in the last session. However, I voted for it because my constituency told me loud and clear that this was what they wanted. The same applies to this bill. I have talked to a number of people in my constituency, elected officials and local residents. They have said they want me to support the bill, and that is what I am doing.

I am standing up today to support my colleague from Windsor West and his private member's bill. I hope everyone here in the House will as well.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2016 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues on all sides for taking part in this debate. What takes place next is a simple process. It is about whether this House has the courage to tackle organized crime in the most significant legislation that will be proposed in this House of Commons for this session of Parliament. It is clean and simple. We send this to committee to be studied, examined, and brought back here for a final vote.

Let us look at the facts carefully. The bill was already in previous Parliaments. It went through with Liberal, Conservative, and NDP support. It was stymied in the Senate and had to re-emerge here. With about $10 billion going to organized crime per year, it has cost us over $20 billion. As it has stalled in the Senate for three years, that is $50 billion going to organized crime.

If the bill does not make it this time and we do not get it to committee, it becomes another four years, unless it is introduced by the government, having to eat crow. What do we have in the meantime? We have a $50-billion gift to organized crime. Organized crime will get the biggest single corporate tax cut from the government. They will get the resources.

Sports betting across this globe is a $2-trillion annual business. Canada is a laggard in terms of accountability. Very little of that is recovered by governments. About 80% is going to organized crime.

If we vote for the bill right now, we give it a chance to go to committee. Let us hear from the experts that are for it. Let us hear it from the experts that are against it. Let us hear about one sentence in the Criminal Code that, in my view, would increase accountability, tourism, and jobs and would give us more reason to tackle other organized crimes, because we would unplug them from their single most profitable source of revenue. That would mean new revenue for health care, education, gaming addiction, and other elements.

I am being mocked and heckled by a Conservative over there, but that is okay. They do not take it seriously, but I do, because those revenues are being asked for and supported by the Province of Ontario and by the official opposition in Ontario.

This gives the provinces the opportunity to choose, if they want, to go into this type of possibility. They have the infrastructure, such as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, which has accountability and the ability to put this out to market if they choose to do it.

For example, if Ontario wants to bet on one event one time, they can do that, monitor it, and provide the accountability and oversight that so many people want.

I can still hear my colleague, and I would ask him to maybe speak to the bill.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2016 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, this is an opportunity we will not have again. We will not have it for this Parliament, unless the Liberals decide to actually introduce it as part of their process.

We have heard testimony on gaming accountability from international and domestic police and others who have testified to the veracity of the exposure we have from unregulated, unaccountable, single sports betting that is taking place in backrooms, bars, basements, and back halls and through organized crime. Sadly enough, with the click of a mouse, it is also being done by our youth.

Let us send this to committee. Let them hear the evidence, and let us move on.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

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.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the passion that he brings to this topic. I know it is extremely important to his riding. I was there for the debate in the last Parliament when Joe Comartin brought the bill in, which passed on a voice vote and then went to the Senate.

It encountered some considerable headwinds at the Senate. It actually went to committee for study, as my hon. colleague would know. The Senate heard from the NCAA, the National Hockey League, the National Football League, and the Toronto Blue Jays on behalf of major league baseball, all of whom expressed concerns that this would affect the integrity of the game.

In fairness, I would invite my colleague to speak to those concerns that were raised at the Senate committee. I fully expect that he is aware of them, and the House should be as well.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would be great to have the Final Four in Canada. However, the NCAA is not really coming to our country, aside from a few exhibition games between colleges and universities that are not even sanctioned, so I would not give that much credibility in the sense that it is a product and a situation that is foreign to us. It would be like us having a sports team over here, an association, demanding something in the U.S. where it does not even play. That is one take on it.

I am glad my hon. colleague was here in the days of Joe Comartin, because he will know the history of this issue.

The NHL still has concerns. However, people can use their app to go to the NHL's website right now and bet on DraftKings.

With respect to the integrity of the game, historically there have been problems with some sporting issues. There is no doubt about that . However, those problems were reined in by the development of the association. Most importantly, it has important issues to deal with, such as concussions and accountability.

In the case of the NFL, it is the same issue. After a few games in Toronto, it was dealing with concussions as well, and other issues. However, it has its voice, another product that is not in our country.

Lastly, if the Toronto Blue Jays and major league baseball are okay in Vegas, why are they not okay here?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member on his efforts to get this bill through. I know it is the second time that he has had it in front of the House.

We just had a question asked about the National Hockey League. In the last year or so, we have been hearing about the potential expansion of the NHL, which I am really excited about. I am hoping it means we will have another team in Canada. Hopefully we will have an NHL team from Canada in the playoffs in the next season.

However, it appears that the city of Las Vegas is in the running right now. It looks as though it is very likely to get a National Hockey League team. Therefore, I ask the member what his views are on what the National Hockey League has had to say about this bill.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, probably one of the most important things to note that I have heard so far in this session is the member's statement with respect to getting a Canadian team back into the playoffs. We are all in remorse.

I sincerely thank the member for his question, because it is interesting that the NHL is allowing organizing and growth to take place in Las Vegas and at the same time saying no to Canadians for a product that it allows in the United States. That does not sound right.

As well, guess where a lot of the NHL awards are held? That would be in Vegas.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my friend from Windsor West for bringing this bill forward again. I thank Joe Comartin, a former colleague and a friend, for initially bringing it forward.

As someone who is essentially opposed to gambling and concerned about gambling addiction, it is is an entire educational experience for me to realize that there is an underground economy that is fuelling organized crime. I would ask my friend to comment on this, because there is a lot of literature on it. How does his bill—which I fully support, and I want to ensure that I say that while I have a chance—help us address the problem of gambling addictions when we are, in a sense, creating a legal form of single-event betting?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

I appreciate that very important question, Mr. Speaker. There is a couple of ways we would tackle it.

If we go to offices, workshops, go online, or any place, there is usually some type of gaming going on. Sometimes it ends up being a single sport event. Look at the final four brackets that everyone has at work and all that kind of stuff. It leads to one event at the end of the day. Therefore, that is happening.

The studies show that we will shift revenue away from organized crime and put it toward a regulated market. In the regulated provincial markets there are avenues, money and support from the revenue that comes in to problem gaming. Therefore, problem gaming finally gets a revenue stream. I do not think anybody from organized crime is writing a cheque for problem gaming.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to contribute to the debate on Bill C-221, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to sports betting, sponsored by the member for Windsor West.

During my remarks, I will be highlighting the concerns I have with the proposed reforms. The government will be opposing the bill.

As Canadian law now stands, single-event sports betting is illegal. However, provinces and territories may offer another type of sports betting, known as parlay betting, to their residents. Parlay betting requires the bettor to correctly predict the outcome for a number of games in order to win. Parlay betting offers bettors an opportunity to participate in a legal and provincially or territorially controlled betting environment.

Single-event sports betting involves betting on the outcome of one single game, such as a game in the Stanley Cup finals. This private member's bill proposes to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibits betting on a single sporting event. If enacted, the amendment would allow a province or territory to offer this type of betting, if it chose to do so.

In Canada, provinces are responsible for operating, licensing, and regulating most legal forms of lottery schemes. Each province determines the types, amount, and location of this kind of gambling activity within the province. If single-event sports betting were permitted, each province would be left to determine how to implement this reform.

There are a whole host of issues that need to be considered when looking at legislative changes to the gambling provisions in the Criminal Code. The impact of Bill C-221 on issues such as match-fixing and problem gaming would be best examined in conjunction with provinces and territories, which would be responsible for single-event sports betting.

The amendment proposed in Bill C-221 may be familiar to many parliamentarians because the same reform was proposed in former private member's Bill C-290 and before that in former private member's Bill C-627, both of which were sponsored by Joe Comartin, the former member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

During debate and committee study of Bill C-290 in the Senate, senators and witnesses raised concerns with regard to the proposed reform. For example, the Senate Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights considered Bill C-290 in 2011, and it heard that the NCAA, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the Toronto Blue Jays, on behalf of Major League Baseball, were all against this proposed reform.

The major concern for these leagues was that the proposed reform could affect the integrity of their games. The government shares these same concerns.

It is possible, as suggested by many sports leagues, that legalizing single-event sports betting could encourage gamblers to fix games, especially in areas where players do not earn a lot of money and may be more susceptible to bribes. The current parlay system of betting makes it unattractive to fix a game, because the only way to achieve a guaranteed payout would be to rig multiple events, which would be much more difficult to accomplish. Single-event sports betting would make a fraudster's task easier, since only one event would need to be fixed.

I believe it is very important to ensure that the integrity of the game is sedulously fostered, and I believe that we should oppose legislation that may significantly affect this integrity.

One of the sponsor's stated objectives is to stimulate the economy and to bring American consumers to Canada. The provinces and territories would stand to gain economic benefits from the proposed reform, but the question arises: at what cost and, specifically, at what social cost?

Studies suggest that 3% to 5% of Canadians are at risk for problem gambling, and 30% to 40% of gambling revenues come from that small percentage. In 2011, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto filed a letter with the Senate committee studying the former Bill C-290 and indicated that the empirical evidence in the field demonstrated that an increase in legal gambling opportunities could lead to an increase in problem gambling. The letter indicated a concern for sports betting in particular.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported an Ontario study that found that people with incomes of less than $20,000 per year were the least likely to gamble. However when they did, they were more likely to experience problems than those in higher income brackets.

These statistics indicate that the cohort of Canadians in the lower income bracket who gamble are the most vulnerable for experiencing problem gambling issues.

As well, individuals who live at or below the poverty line have little or no disposable income to spend on gambling. The amount spent on gambling takes a bigger bite out of their monthly budget. For someone making $20,000, spending even $1,000 a year on gambling is a very significant percentage of their disposable income.

Opposing this bill means protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health also demonstrated that people, now patrons of illegal bookmakers, would likely continue to do so because of easy access to credit, convenience, and better odds.

The suggestion that this reform would be funnelling money away from organized crime and redirecting it into provincial coffers is clearly not strong enough to rationalize supporting the bill. In short, this proposed reform would bring about more gambling and would contribute to the many ills in society brought about by problem gambling.

While I appreciate that many would see these changes as a welcome way to stimulate the economy and to fund provincial activities, I do not believe that it should be supported. As such, I would ask members to join me in opposing this private member's bill.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2016 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-221 in the name of the New Democratic member for Windsor West. I want to congratulate him on all of his efforts to try to get the bill passed.

First, the Conservative Party will allow a free vote of its members on the bill, and I would hope the government would reconsider this opportunity to let its members have a free vote on this as well.

I would like to lay out the reasons for my support for the bill.

First, in Canada, sports betting is only legal through parlay betting over a series of three games on what the outcome of those three games would be, which we have heard already tonight. It is not a great leap to shift from parlay betting to single sports betting.

Tourism in Canada has been on the decline. The legalization of single sports betting would give us the competitive edge that we need to bring some tourism back to Canada, especially along the border with the United States.

In my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, well over a decade ago there was a great debate that raged about allowing a casino to set up somewhere in the Thousand Islands region. After a great debate and a number of plebiscites in the municipalities, a casino was established on the boundary between the town of Gananoque and what is now the township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

At the time, many detractors were talking about the evils of gaming. However, at that particular casino, very little of the fears of the detractors have been realized. In fact, on the contrary, the casino has become a significant tourist anchor. Furthermore, it has contributed literally millions of dollars to the tax base of the municipalities, as well as direct payments to those municipalities, and it has helped boost other businesses in the region.

Therefore, with the new avenue of gaming, Canadian casinos would have a product that many of the those in the United States do not have. We have heard that it has been available for many years in Las Vegas. This would give us the upper hand on competing casinos right across the border and take back the traffic that Canadian casinos originally had.

Currently, as I said, this form of betting is only legal in one state, which is in the state of Nevada. Why should Nevada have a monopoly on this?

The legalization of single sports betting gives us the opportunity to attract more Americans to Canadian casinos, taking advantage of our proximity in comparison to the state of Nevada. It would not only give us the ability to compete with Nevada for its tourism and casino traffic, but it would put us in a strong position to grow both our industry and our economy.

Not only would the legislation before us be beneficial for the Canadian tourism industry, it would also be mutually beneficial for our economy.

We have recently seen in Nevada the mass tourism for the Super Bowl. They were not there for the Super Bowl game in Nevada; they were there to bet on that game. Nevada prepared for at least 200,000 extra visitors than it usually would have had. There was about $90 million that was spent betting on the game, and $150 million spent in Las Vegas on miscellaneous industries.

This one event generated mass amounts of revenue for communities. With our geographic close proximity to the United States, I have no doubt we would be able to reap those economic benefits.

Recently, I read a case study that was done by the Canadian Gaming Association on towns such as Niagara Falls, which would be heavily impacted by the proposed legislation of single sports betting. What the association found was that although single sports betting did produce revenue, the greatest increase in revenue was in the hospitality sector and entertainment industries due to the increased volume of tourists in the area.

Therefore, single sports betting would not just generate more financial flow within the casinos or betting pools, but it would have greater financial implications that could benefit the whole economy. Imagine the opportunities that could open up for Canadian cities such as Niagara Falls if the legislation is passed.

It is increasingly important that we work to better our economy in every possible way. Not only would single-event sports betting generate greater income in our tourism and gaming towns, it would also open up greater job opportunities for the people who live there.

As we are all aware, unemployment has risen this past year to about 7.3% in Canada. Creating more jobs in Canada would be very beneficial for all of us.

The Canadian gaming industry currently employs close to four million people, already having a significant impact on the economy. With the opening of single event betting, the increased traffic would allow for casinos to employ more staff. In Niagara Falls alone, it could create more than 200 jobs. That means 200 more people who would have security, and 200 more people who would not have to struggle to survive. Not only would 200 more people be employed, which in itself is already beneficial, it is 200 people in one area.

The availability of more jobs in every major town that would facilitate single event sports betting would give us the means necessary to strong arm the current high unemployment rate and substantially lower it. The reality of the situation is that while single game betting is illegal in Canada, it is still happening, as we have already heard this evening, through offshore gaming or through the black market.

Through offshore or illegal bookmaking operations, the single events sports underground market generates as much as $14 billion a year in Canada. Instead of this large market going off radar, we would make it both legal and regulated provincially. Passing the bill would mean that the provinces could tap into money that is currently being spent illegally, and use it provincially to support social programs as they see fit.

Niagara Falls is estimated to make a net profit of between $9 million and $12 million each year. Imagine what that money could do in a community such as Niagara Falls.

The bill is not a question of whether or not single sports betting will automatically become illegal. Instead, it will follow suit and give the provinces the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to legalize it. Due to the economic advantages of job employment and increased tourism revenue, it is necessary that the provinces have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether this is something they want to support.

The bill has passed the House before, until it was stuck in the Senate. Sports betting is already legal in Canada. It would be wise to further the scope of that legality. I would ask members to vote yes again, taking note of the vast economic growth both in the tourism or employment sectors that could occur in Canada through its passing.

I leave members with the words of the mayor of Niagara Falls, “Whatever your opinion is on [single sports betting], it's happening and it's happening online or in Las Vegas.”

Let us keep these billions of dollars in Canada by making it work legally here.