Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Kevin Waugh  Conservative

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

Status

Report stage (House), as of March 26, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-218.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends 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 — other than a horse-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

Feb. 17, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Windsor—Tecumseh Ontario

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-218 and the importance of single sports betting to my community and to Canada.

The bill would decriminalize new forms of sports gambling in Canada. While Canadians across the country are currently permitted to place bets on a series of sports events, a form of parlay betting, they are prohibited from placing a bet on an event in, or on an outcome of, a single game or match. These new forms of betting are referred to by many as single-event sports betting or single sports betting.

Let me begin by telling the House what single sports betting means to my community in Windsor—Tecumseh. It means jobs. This past winter, I invited the Prime Minister to join a discussion with local workers and labour leaders from Windsor—Tecumseh and Essex County. The Prime Minister wanted to hear directly from workers from Windsor-Essex. We discussed priorities, investments in the automotive sector, national child care to help parents get working again, investments in health care, including mental health, and protecting our environment.

Dana Dunphy, who is the Unifor Local 444 unit chair at Caesars Windsor Casino, took the floor and talked about the importance of single sports betting to Caesars Windsor and its 2,500 workers. She spoke very passionately and eloquently about the tremendous pain that Caesars Windsor workers and their families have gone through during COVID-19. Even before the latest lockdown, less than 10% are back at work.

Our government put forward a bill that would legalize single sports betting. That bill is for Dana and for the 2,500 workers at Caesars Windsor. The legalization of single sports betting would help keep Caesars Windsor competitive, especially against American casinos in Michigan that are literally a stone's throw away and have already legalized single sports betting. It would help protect these vital jobs in our community while at the same time introducing responsible gaming.

It has been a long road to get here. Many people have advocated hard in Windsor-Essex for this day, and it really was a true team effort. I want to acknowledge the work of my predecessor Joe Comartin, who first raised this issue over 10 years ago, and my colleagues from across the floor, the member for Windsor West and the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, who brought this issue forward as a private member's bill during this Parliament.

Back home I want to acknowledge and thank Dave Cassidy, the president of Unifor Local 444, who has advocated for single sports betting since my first week on the job. That is when we got together over a plate of bacon and eggs at Uptown Restaurant and talked about the priorities of Unifor members, priorities like single sports betting and protecting jobs at FCA.

A few weeks later, Dave and I sat across a table with Mayor Dilkens of Windsor, Mayor McNamara of Tecumseh and the the member of Parliament for Windsor West. We were joined by the CEO of Caesars Windsor, the CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island and the CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. We were all united in our support for single sports betting and we made the commitment to work together to get it done, so here we are in sight of the finish line.

I thought I would start my remarks by discussing recent developments in the United States with respect to single-event sports betting.

Since a 2018 ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States, single-event sports betting has been proliferating steadily throughout our southern neighbour on a state-by-state basis. Today, 20 U.S. states have now legalized single sports betting. Along with this change in the law in the United States, we have seen a significant shift in the positions of major sports league. Rather than seeing single sports betting as a potential threat to the integrity of organized sports, major league sports now see it as a viable commercial opportunity.

The American Gaming Association estimates that 7.2 million people will place online wagers for the Super Bowl alone and generate $4.3 billion in bets from this one single game. In Canada, the provincial governments have long been supportive of legalizing single sports betting. Ontario, for example, called for the legalization of single sports betting by the federal government in its 2019 budget.

As a result of the current prohibition, it is estimated that $14 billion a year is directed away from provincial lottery systems to underground providers of sports betting. Taxing this potential betting activity would not only help pay for important social services; it could also be used to assist people who suffer from gambling problems.

This legislation would not introduce something that is not already here. Canadians who want to participate in single sports betting are doing so in unlicensed markets. That money is funding the coffers of organized crime rather than those of governments that provide important services to Canadians.

Provinces and territories are losing revenue not just to organized crime, but to America and European countries that have already chosen to regulate single-sport betting. Now is the time for the government to act and begin competing on a fair playing field with the United States and other countries.

While putting forward strong arguments for the legalization of single-sport betting, it is important to consider at the same time the negative impacts of sports betting and, in particular, the potentially devastating impacts of gambling and addiction on vulnerable groups within our society. Mental health and addictions experts have come before Parliament in the past to provide advice on how single-event sports betting might affect our society. It can lead to loss of material possessions, physical health issues, job loss, intimate partner violence and other forms of criminal activity. We must listen to experts and be willing to learn. I very much look forward to a full debate on the impacts that these amendments could have here in Canada.

I know that the government takes concerns regarding vulnerable sectors of society very seriously, especially in light of the difficulties many Canadians have had that have been caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, continuing to criminalize this behaviour is not, in my opinion, the appropriate path forward.

While the federal government primarily operates in this area using criminal law, our provincial and territorial partners are empowered to manage and conduct, or in other words regulate, what have been called lottery schemes. They use revenue from regulating and taxing these lottery schemes or systems to provide important social services, which are more important than ever due to the impact of COVID-19. Our provincial and territorial partners take great steps to educate the public with respect to gaming and betting products.

The only area in which the federal government continues to regulate gaming and betting is the unique pari-mutuel system of betting on live horse racing. All other gambling activities are now either directly regulated or licensed by provincial governments.

The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency, or CPMA, is a special agency operating within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Under the purview of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the CPMA not only regulates and supervises pari-mutuel betting on horse races, but also administers the national equine drug control program to ensure the stability of the horse racing industry through fair play.

As with all decisions we are called upon to make as parliamentarians, there is an appropriate balance that must be struck. I am looking forward to debating and studying all aspects of this issue and working with all members from all parties to ultimately decriminalize single-event sports betting and bring it into a safe and regulated space.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the Bloc Québécois for giving me the opportunity to speak on this issue, which is all the more important now that ads for sports betting are becoming increasingly common during broadcasts of Canadian sports events on channels like TVA Sports. These ads are not just regulated by Loto-Québec, and we are seeing other initiatives. It is therefore all the more urgent to better regulate them.

Before I get into the meat of the issue, I want to say that my thoughts are with the front-line workers supporting people who are suffering. Their job has gotten even harder because of COVID-19 and all the emotional distress it is causing. I want to thank them for encouraging those people and express my sincere appreciation under the circumstances. The support they provide is also related to the subject we are talking about this afternoon.

To come back to Bill C-218, I want to thank my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood, and I also want to recognize my colleague from Windsor West, who began this process a few years ago. In my opinion, the changes that would be brought about by Bill C-218 would improve transparency, better regulate sports betting and give the government additional resources to take care of vulnerable people struggling with addiction. I think that kind of support is key, regardless of the matter of revenue.

I therefore address the House today to express my support for Bill C-218, which seeks to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code on sports betting and sporting events to make it lawful to bet on a single sports event, rather than having to bet on a minimum of two events or more at a time. Single-event betting is already legal in many U.S. states.

This change would enable the provinces to regulate sports betting practices and give them the legal tools they need to keep bettors safe while limiting abuse. Provincial governments and communities will also benefit from economic spinoffs.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that transparency is the best way to fight the scourges caused by organized crime. This easing of the legislative measures will allow Loto-Québec, a public corporation, to collect revenues associated with this type of transaction. The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that $27 billion could be recovered from the black market every year.

The most important aspect of this is that, through the work of a public corporation, Loto-Québec, the Quebec government is in a better position to prevent pathological gambling problems than organized crime. Our public corporation has taken it upon itself to raise awareness and help people who have an addiction. Thanks to initiatives such as the Fondation Mise sur toi, the Quebec government is aware that it is best positioned to set up support mechanisms.

Our public corporation's approach gets us out of the infernal spiral of debt, organized crime and the suffering of illegal gamblers. When gambling happens on the black market, the identity of those with problems remains unknown and it is impossible to step in to help those who gamble excessively.

Bill C-218 would limit competition in the sports betting world, which is currently preventing Loto-Québec from competing with U.S. casinos. Even the Casino de Montréal is now advertising to attract players.

Our physical proximity to the United States makes it easy for people to place bets outside our borders. The member for Windsor West really helped us understand that, because his riding is close to Detroit and he has observed the phenomenon himself.

Bill C-218 will give Quebec and the other provinces the tools to better regulate sports betting, which will be impossible if it remains in the hands of offshore websites and underground casinos. Especially now in the Internet age, Bill C-218 will help our own Crown corporation, Loto-Québec, adapt to meet the needs of its clientele while also limiting the flow of capital abroad. I think online poker sites are among the biggest culprits.

Bill C-218 will enhance reciprocity between Canada's sports betting market and the United States'. Without that, it does not work. Specifically, Bill C-218 also protects casinos in Quebec and Canada. The casino in Plattsburgh, New York, competes with the Casino de Montréal in Quebec, just as casinos around Detroit, Michigan, compete with the one in Windsor, Ontario. We are talking significant revenue that our governments are missing out on, revenue that could support health care, for example.

Part of the money taken from sports betting transactions outside our borders would be used to structure our own support mechanisms or at least contribute to the well-being of our constituents.

Bill C-218 also helps weaken the funding of organized crime. It is a way to undercut them by taking away another source of income. It is also a way to prevent misfortunes like the one a young man in Quebec went through. I will read his story as reported in La Presse:

The young man went to an online site. At the homepage, the user has to enter a name and a password to access the site and then he can bet on the outcome of several professional sports games and even on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. According to our research, the name of the site is registered to a corporation in Panama. The site has been hosted on a server in Costa Rica since March 2015, but did not become active until a year later. The corporation that owns the server hosts roughly 75 other online betting sites. We were told that the Montreal mafia's sports betting operation is run by a manager who has an assistant below him, and then some bookies.

It is sort of like a pyramid scheme. The La Presse article continues:

The bookies are responsible for the players they recruit. The interest charged on a debt can increase from 3% to 5% a week, and when a player has a large debt, an individual with ties to organized crime can purchase it and then collect the debt and interest from the player. “The player's family may end up having to take on the player's debt,” a source explained. “Some people have lost their homes because of online sports betting.”

It is obvious that the situation is more than tragic.

Bill C-218 builds on a long line of failures. Ten years ago, in 2011, a bill similar in every respect to Bill C-218 was introduced, and the Liberals were the only ones who voted against it.

Ten years later, it is rather odd to see the Liberals introducing Bill C-213 to amend the Criminal Code provisions on single-event sports betting.

Then, a new version of the bill was adopted in the House of Commons but ultimately died in the Senate, which was also rather surprising.

In September 2016, the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of Bill C-221, introduced by none other than the member for Windsor West. Oddly enough, however, a majority of Liberal MPs opposed the bill once again.

I have no doubt that my New Democrat colleague from Windsor West will vote in favour of Bill C-218, introduced by our colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood. He has already spoken to this bill and, I should note, I also had the opportunity to speak then.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-218, since it will provide a new revenue stream for Loto-Québec and will impede unfair competition from American casinos. It will allow Quebec and the other provinces to better regulate sports betting, which is currently left to foreign websites and illegal casinos.

The Crown corporation is in the best position to prevent issues with compulsive gambling and organized crime, and to provide meaningful support to those who have fallen victim to the slippery slope of compulsive gambling. This issue causes psychological distress. We need to take meaningful action, and the framework proposed in the bill introduced by the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood is the least we can do.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to join the debate today on Bill C-218. To start, I would like to congratulate the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for bringing forward for the House's consideration this bill and its important amendment to the criminal code.

I was a member of the 42nd Parliament, and during my time then I served as our party's justice critic in 2017. As part of my role, I became quite familiar with the Criminal Code and how out of date so many of its sections are and how important it is that the Criminal Code, as a very important federal statute with huge impacts on the lives of so many people, has regular reviews and revisions. To its credit, the Liberal government in the previous Parliament did try to revise many out-of-date sections, but because of the impact it has on institutions and so many individuals, it is important that we regularly review it.

That brings me to Bill C-218, because it would make a very minor, but I think important, amendment to the Criminal Code. It would amend paragraph 207(4)(b), which defines what lottery schemes are and explicitly prohibits provinces from allowing wagering on any “race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest”.

Criminal law is an area of shared jurisdiction. The federal Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction in amending the Criminal Code, and of course the administration of justice is conducted by the provinces. This goes to show members that the actions of the federal Parliament can sometimes have wide-ranging consequences for provincial jurisdiction. I know in my own home province and in provinces right across the country the regulation of casinos and the different lottery corporations is very much under provincial control. Therefore, this is an area where we as a federal Parliament can have a positive impact by allowing provinces to have a bit more control over this very significant sector, one that currently, under its regulated form, employs a lot of people and provides a lot of benefits to many Canadians and communities across the country.

In recognition of what the member has done with this bill, I would be remiss if I did not also recognize my friend and colleague, the member for Windsor West, who in the previous Parliament brought forward a bill that was exactly the same as this one. That was Bill C-221. I was there on September 21, 2016, when that bill, unfortunately, was defeated in a vote of 156 to 33. It was defeated at the time because most Liberal members of Parliament voted against the bill. Here we are in the year 2021 and this is an ongoing issue. We could have resolved this back in 2016. It is a real shame that we have had to wait so many years before we are finally coming to a stage where it seems like we might have enough support to get this over the line.

I know that the member for Windsor West and his former colleague, Joe Comartin, who used to be the MP for Windsor—Tecumseh and another great New Democrat who first brought this issue to our attention back in 2010, had a lot of help in their respective ridings and from across the country. I know that the member for Windsor West is very appreciative of people like Dave Cassidy, the current president of Unifor Local 444, and the past president Ken Lewenza. Those two individuals and many others have really helped make the case for this bill, and as is often the case, it is our privilege as members of Parliament to take that strong collective community action and put it into a piece of legislation for our Parliament to consider.

I mentioned how most Liberal MPs contributed to the defeat of the previous bill back in 2016. I need to highlight that fact because we are now in a situation where we are debating this current private member's bill, but we also have a parallel bill that was introduced by the very same Liberal government in the form of Bill C-13. It was introduced on November 26 last year, but it is still stuck at first reading.

This gives rise to questions as to whether the Liberals are actually serious about this. When we come to a vote on this particular bill are they going to throw their support behind it? Are they going to slow play Bill C-13? I have heard some supportive speeches by current Liberal MPs, but we do not know where the vast majority of that caucus lies. It would be great to have some clarification on which way the Liberals are going to go this time.

With a closer examination of what Bill C-218 does, it is essentially amending the Criminal Code to give provinces the ability to allow wagers on single-event sports betting. I am certainly not an expert on this, but I think it is important to recognize that it is not only helping to modernize the Criminal Code in giving that jurisdictional responsibility to provinces, but is also a real recognition that this is a sector in the legal gaming sector that already employs so many Canadians. This sector contributes billions of dollars in tax revenues to governments of every stripe. It is one that employs thousands of Canadians.

I do not have any casinos in my own riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, but in the neighbouring riding of Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. In the town of View Royal, there is a casino there. It is having tough times right now because of COVID-19. If we were to make this important amendment to the Criminal Code, it would help that casino and its patrons, allowing them to reap the economic benefits when we get to the recovery phase.

It is important to talk about why allowing it is so important. We know that single-event sports betting exists in both Canada and the United States. The main difference is that in Canada it is illegal by virtue of this existing part of the Criminal Code. We are in a situation where speakers on this current bill and its previous iterations, including in 2016, acknowledge that single-event sports betting exists. If it is going on illegally, that means it is the black market that is taking all of the benefits.

When we are dealing with the Criminal Code and looking at how various sections of it are acting, we have to make a very thorough analysis of whether keeping an existing section of the law is even worth it if so many people are in fact breaking the law and if most of the benefits from that activity are going to black markets.

If the revenues from single-event sports betting are funding illegal activity, such as the purchase of guns, and are contributing to the local drug trade, that is a bad thing and we need to find ways to properly regulate it under provincial authorities. I do not want to go into too much detail on this, but I think that in itself is an excellent reason for us to consider amending this section of the Criminal Code to bring it under provincial regulations. There are strong steps being taken to strengthen regulations in gaming as well.

In my own province of British Columbia, we have certainly seen some major inquiries into money laundering in casinos. I am not saying that casinos have not had their problems, but because of the actions of the people laundering money through casinos, the Province of B.C. has now stepped with tighter regulations. If we, as the federal Parliament, were to make this important amendment to the Criminal Code, provinces like B.C. and others, would bring in the necessary strong regulations.

If we look at the United States, Americans spent about $150 billion on sports betting in 2016. Here in Canada, it is estimated that Canadians illegally wager between $14 billion and $15 billion annually on single-event sports. That is not a small sum of money, and it is something we have take great account of.

I will end by noting that there is a list of great supporters of this, including the national Unifor union, the City of Windsor, the Canadian Gaming Association and, closer to home for me, the attorney general of British Columbia. We would do well as a federal Parliament to listen to those voices, from the private sector, labour and provincial governments, to make sure that we pass this bill.

I will indicate my strong support for Bill C-218 and hope to see us get it to committee where it can have that important analysis.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Kram Conservative Regina—Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, Mosaic Stadium in Regina, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, sat vacant through 2020, empty of fans and their beloved players during the pandemic. It is my hope that some day in the not-too-distant future, Rider Nation will once again gather safely, sit shoulder to shoulder and cheer on the green and white as they pummel the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or any other inferior team. To get to that future moment in the bleachers under a bright blue prairie sky, the teams of the Canadian Football League are going to need sources of revenue, the lack of which led to the cancellation of last year's football season. That is why I am pleased to speak in favour of Bill C-218, the safe and regulated sports betting act.

Many of the merits of this bill have already been explained in detail in the House by my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. One of the most persuasive arguments in favour of Bill C-218 is the good that could be done if the $14 billion in revenue generated every year in Canada by single-game sports betting were redirected from underground or offshore entities to lawful distribution in Canada.

Currently, as the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood has pointed out, the governments of Saskatchewan and other provinces take revenues from lottery ticket programs such as Sport Select and Pro-Line to help fund amateur sports and other community activities. These gambling services, known as parlay betting, require bettors to place wagers on multiple sporting events.

For example, if I want to bet on the Saskatchewan Roughriders to beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, I cannot bet on just that one game. I also have to bet on one or two other games that I may not be interested in watching, and if I do not pick those other games correctly no payout is made. I can inform the House from personal experience just how annoying and frustrating that can be. Even with these limitations, parlay betting generates approximately $500 million in revenue in Canada every year.

Let us consider the $500 million generated annually by parlay betting, and then think about the $14 billion generated annually by single-game sports betting in Canada. What could be done with that extra $14 billion? One institution that could benefit from the extra revenue is the Canadian Football League and its nine member teams. If the CFL incurs all the costs of putting on the games that people are going to be betting on, it seems reasonable that the league and its teams would want to negotiate some sort of revenue-sharing agreement with their provincial governments for some of the revenues generated from single-game sports betting.

The Canadian Football League and its predecessors have been part of Canadian culture for almost as long as confederation, with the Canadian Rugby Football Union having been founded in 1884. The Grey Cup trophy has been around for over a century, having been donated by Governor General Earl Grey in 1909. Since then, this trophy has been presented every November to the winner of the championship Grey Cup game, with the only interruptions being for World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic, and the current pandemic, which cancelled last year's football season.

On a personal note, one of my fondest childhood memories is of watching the 1989 Grey Cup game on TV in my parents' basement with my older brother and the neighbour kids as the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the newly opened Toronto SkyDome. I apologize to any members from Hamilton if that brought back some bad memories.

As we come out of the pandemic, many Canadians, including me, would like to see life get back to normal. That includes seeing the Canadian Football League play the 2021 season. I would like to remind the House that another option to enable the CFL to play this season is simply to provide it with a massive taxpayer subsidy. In fact, this is exactly what the league was asking for last spring: anywhere from $30 million to $150 million.

I cannot help but think that it would be nice if we could have our cake and eat it too. It would be nice if we could save this great Canadian institution without being a burden to taxpayers. I believe that decriminalizing single-game sports betting would allow the Canadian Football League the opportunity to do exactly that.

I would like to now discuss how Bill C-218, once passed into law, could create a voluntary source of revenue to help the Canadian Football League, its member teams and other organizations recover from the major economic disruption of the pandemic.

Quite simply, many organizations, including some professional sports teams, had already negotiated revenue-sharing agreements in the past with their provincial governments for parlay betting, such as Pro-Line and Sport Select. If single-game sports betting were to be decriminalized and regulated by provincial governments, it would present a real opportunity for the Canadian Football League and its member teams to negotiate future revenue-sharing agreements for the revenues generated from single-game sports betting.

If such a framework had been in place prior to the pandemic, then perhaps last year's CFL season could have been saved. The problem faced last year by the Canadian Football League is that its business model depends on gate-driven revenues, such as ticket sales, concessions and parking. Other sources of revenue, such as TV contracts and merchandise, are just not enough to make the league economically viable.

This is why the 2020 season was cancelled, and this is why the 2021 season is in jeopardy. However, if single-game sports better were legal in this country, and if the CFL had revenue-sharing agreements in place with their provincial governments, then this long-standing Canadian institution could be on stronger financial footing to come out of the pandemic and once again be economically viable.

The Canadian Football League is a benefit to many Canadians, over and above the players and fans. Every team at every stadium needs hundreds of workers to bring each game to life. I ask members to think of them all. Food and beverage vendors, security guards, tour bus and motorcoach operators, sports broadcasters, and camera operators all have a role to play in creating the contest on the field, the TVs and the tablets of fans all across the country.

I sincerely hope we will get out of this current pandemic as soon as possible, without a third or fourth wave. I would also like for there to be no more pandemics in the future. Then we can all get on with our lives, and there would be no need for the CFL to ask the federal government for a taxpayer-funded bailout to save the season or the league. If parliamentarians agree to pass Bill C-218 into law, then provincial legitimization of that $14 billion in annual gaming revenues could help improve the lives not just of the players and fans of the Canadian Football League but also those who are involved in other sports, cultural and community organizations across the country, as these revenues would be distributed legally under various provincially regulated frameworks.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for sponsoring this bill. Finally, if Bill C-218 is passed into law, I will bet $50 that the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup this year.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-218, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to sports betting, sponsored by the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood.

Today, legal betting on sports events occurs throughout Canada in the form of parlay betting and pari-mutuel betting. Parlay betting allows individuals to wager on the outcome of multiple sporting events, and pari-mutuel is a unique form of betting that allows betters to wager on live horse racing. These two examples provide individuals with the opportunity to participate in a safe and regulated betting environment.

Single-event sports betting is currently not permitted in Canada. This type of betting allows an individual to wager solely on the outcome of a single event or game, such as the Grey Cup. The premise of our criminal law in this area is a blanket prohibition on all gaming and betting activity. Betting, bookmaking, placing bets for third parties and similar gambling-related activities are all illegal. However, from the basic premise that all gambling activities are illegal, a series of exceptions have been enacted over time.

Bill C-218 is drafted as a short and straightforward bill. It proposes a single amendment to the Criminal Code to repeal paragraph 207(4)(b). This paragraph currently prohibits any form of betting on individual races, fights, single-sporting events or athletic contests. If enacted, the amendment would allow provinces and territories to create what is known as a lottery scheme to offer this unique type of betting.

On the surface, Bill C-218's proposal to repeal a paragraph in the Criminal Code seems fine. However, it raises a whole lot of issues that are likely to have repercussions, from the potential for significant revenue generation to unique health care consequences. Although my parliamentary colleagues will have to carefully examine all possible repercussions of this bill, I would like to start by focusing on one issue in particular. Although the vast majority of gaming regulations are enforced by our provincial partners, the federal government has jurisdiction over the supervision and regulation of pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in Canada.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has within her portfolio a special operating agency: the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency, or CPMA. This agency, using revenues from its regulation of parimutuel betting, provides essential services to an important Canadian industry. Not only does the CPMA work with the provinces to provide a safe betting environment for Canadians who choose to wager on horse racing, but it also administers the national equine drug control program. This drug control program ensures fair play and the stability of one of Canada's oldest industries.

This is an industry that supports thousands of jobs across the country, from breeders and farmers to jockeys and trainers. Events such as the North America Cup and the Queen's Plate, the latter starting in 1860 and being the oldest continuously run race in North America, are not only important Canadian cultural icons, but also important sources of tourism and other revenues.

I highlight the horse racing industry and the role of the CPMA because of the potential effect of Bill C-218 on the future of these two entities. Should single-event sports betting be legalized without careful consideration of the potential impact on one of Canada's oldest industries, the effects could be devastating.

A repeal of paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code would not only legalize single-event sports betting, but also remove the prohibition on the provinces from regulating additional forms of betting on horse racing. As the CPMA currently funds its important programs through a levy on all bets placed through the parimutuel system of betting, a repeal of the protection found in paragraph 207(4)(b) may also result in removing the majority of CPMA's funding. Without this funding, we could very well see the collapse of this special operating agency, which is of special and essential importance to the horse racing industry.

At this time in particular, all parliamentarians should be clear on the impacts of their decisions on our economy and the impacts on the industry in all regions of our country.

That is why I think it is of vital importance that we take the time to examine, debate and study the essential role that the CPMA plays and the future of an industry that has always served Canada well.

We have a responsibility to the horse racing industry across this country to ensure that we make the right decision. We have a responsibility to vulnerable people in Canadian society to listen to experts in mental health and addictions. We have a responsibility to listen to police officers who investigate organized crime to see how the legalization of what was once seen as a moral vice might affect our modern system of justice and its impacts on illicit activities of organized criminal groups both here in Canada and abroad.

We must also listen to the indigenous peoples and communities as we work to re-establish Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples on a nation-to-nation basis. We must learn what potential impacts this could have on their communities and nations.

Some first nations, and other indigenous groups across this country, have entered into agreements respecting gaming and betting with many of the provinces to share in gambling revenues with the provinces and manage community activities. These agreements are the result of significant consultation, negotiation and trust. It is also my understanding that there are likely other indigenous governments that have expressed an interest in more direct management in gaming and betting. We have a responsibility to listen to indigenous peoples and communities on these important issues and how this industry may impact and benefit indigenous peoples and communities.

We find ourselves at a moment in time when a new form of gaming is being proposed as an exception to the blanket prohibition on gaming and betting.

As always, Parliament must carefully examine the potential repercussions on Canadians and industry stakeholders. We need to determine if it makes sense for Parliament to keep using its jurisdiction over criminal law to prohibit this activity.

The United States recently joined other countries in making this form of gaming possible in a regulated context. We have also seen major industry stakeholders alter their public positions over time. One thing has not changed though: Parliament's duty to take the time to examine the repercussions of such a change on our federal system.

On that note, I would like to extend my thanks for this opportunity to speak on Bill C-218. I look forward to working with all members of the House on this unique initiative.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 2:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, it is also an honour for me to speak to this bill. I think it is important to pass it at second reading and send it to committee. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the member from Saskatoon—Grasswood for introducing this bill and the member for Windsor West, who introduced it in a previous Parliament.

The objective of this bill is rather simple. Let us not overly complicate things. I did not hear many people speak who seem to oppose the bill. It would make a fairly simple change that would legalize single-event sports betting. It is currently possible to place a bet, but it has to be on more than one event. Anyone who wants to bet on a sports event can go to the Loto-Québec website, but they have to bet on a second event.

Does the law or the current situation prevent sports betting? The answer is no. Rather, it prevents betting on a single event. Obviously, when the government leaves an area of activity open, someone else will step in to fill the gap. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so, organized crime gets involved. I will talk a little about that later.

I would also like to point out that this is the fourth time this bill has come before the House. The time has come to pass it and move on to another issue. That it has been introduced four times speaks to its relevance.

It is also important to note that the context has changed since the last time. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling overrode the federal government's power to prohibit states from allowing lotteries. This means the American federal government can no longer prohibit states from organizing single wager lotteries. This has implications for us. We can pretend that we are pure and do not do that, but it has repercussions because the United States is our close neighbour.

In fact, the bill introduced by our colleague from Windsor West was likely motivated by geography, for the industry in his part of the country. This is true everywhere. It is also true for Quebec. Plattsburgh is less than 90 minutes from Montreal. Gambling exists, and it is a competitive industry. If it is not done in American casinos, it will be done illegally somewhere else.

The Bloc Québécois supports this bill for four main reasons. It will provide a new revenue stream for Loto-Québec. It is as simple as that. There is revenue now, but it is going into the wrong pockets. This bill would allow Loto-Québec to collect that money. It will also prevent unfair competition from American casinos, which I mentioned earlier. In addition, the bill will provide new opportunities for gamblers in Quebec and Canada and will allow for better regulation.

It is right there in the name of the bill: the safe and regulated sports betting act. That is the objective. We are not trying to encourage people to gamble more. The idea is to provide a framework, come up with regulations and protect people. This bill is consistent with the movement towards legalizing gambling in North America. There are now 17 states, including New York. that have legalized it. We now have the choice to either hop on board or let this opportunity pass us by.

I should point out that the federal ruling in the U.S. was a game changer. Some people had objections that may have once been legitimate, but this ruling refuted most of those arguments.

Every time I rise to speak here, I cannot help but draw parallels to the political situation in Quebec. It is interesting to see that in the United States, it is the opposite situation from Canada. Here in Canada, section 91 says that federal laws take precedence over provincial and territorial ones, while in the United States, that ruling says the complete opposite. It is interesting. We might want to emulate that.

I mentioned that the purpose of the legislation is essentially to protect people. Earlier, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue mentioned the specific case of an 18-year-old young man who committed suicide after getting into debt. That is one example.

How many families have been torn apart by one member's pathological gambling? How many material possessions have been lost to dishonest people? The fact that there are debt collectors who buy up debt is not good news. Government regulation could address that.

There is another reason to pass this bill. In Quebec, we have already tried to do something. It is not like we have been sitting idle. In 2016, the Government of Quebec tried to ban access to U.S. gambling sites. The Quebec Superior Court ruled that Quebec did not have the authority to do that. We cannot do it, and since the federal government is not doing it either, then the next logical step is to confront organized crime. When we talk about organized crime, we are talking about the mafia.

There is one figure that struck me, and that is that, in 2004-05, Operation Colisée estimated that organized crime in Montreal made $27 billion in a single year from this type of betting.

What do members of organized crime do with that money, hon. members? They do not buy houses. They fund other activities. They extend their reach. We need to cut them off at the knees. The lives of everyone around these people are at risk.

Let us talk about cheating. One of the main arguments against this bill is that, if people are betting on a single event, it will be much easier to rig the event in question, particularly if it involves a single athlete. It could be very tempting to try to bribe him or her.

There is nothing stopping us from exerting more control over that aspect, since we do not have any control over the outcome of these events as it is. Nothing is stopping us from increasing penalties for that because, in any case, we have no control over the outcome of most of the big sports events that people are going to bet on. Many of these events take place in Quebec and Canada, but also in the United States. I therefore think that argument is not valid.

According to the president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, legalizing and regulating these revenues take them away from organized crime and direct them to the government, which will be able to legally use this money to help people.

I should also mention that people will choose the legal alternative if one exists. In general, when people have a legal alternative, no matter what they may think of it, they will take it. Users will migrate en masse from illegal sites to legal sites, and this will give local governments money to intervene and prevent the risk and compulsive gambling in the same way as other programs mentioned earlier, such as those run by Loto-Québec. Of course, it is not a perfect system. We often wonder whether the government should really be encouraging gambling. However, at least the government has the means to help those with problems and to manage this in a fair manner.

Earlier, I mentioned that this is the fourth time that this bill has been introduced in the House. The first time, it was not debated. The second time, it passed unanimously, but then was blocked by the Senate. I hope that, if it is passed this time, it will not be blocked by the unelected Senate. It is an important issue.

Finally, the last time this bill was introduced, it was rejected by the Liberal government, which had a majority at the time. Their first argument against it was rigging, which I just refuted, and the second was that the bill promoted pathological gambling. I have addressed that as well. The government is better equipped than anyone to help victims of these systems.

Quebec and Canada have made a societal choice to legalize gambling in order to better regulate it. We prefer sound public policy over puritanism. I believe this is the path we should follow.

The only group that will benefit from the status quo if we do not pass the bill is organized crime. That is why we must pass the bill.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to conclude debate at second reading on Bill C-218, the safe and regulated sports betting act.

First, I want to thank all the members from all parties who have risen today to support this important legislation. It is not often we get members from the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and the Bloc all rising in favour of a given initiative, but that is what we have this afternoon.

This Sunday is the biggest sport betting event of the year. It is the 55th Super Bowl. Millions of dollars will be wagered in Canada on everything from the win to the props, the point spread and then the coin toss and so on. Unfortunately, almost all that money will be going to offshore websites and criminal organizations. However, we can change that.

By passing Bill C-218, we can ensure that going forward, profits from sports wagering is put back into our communities, into health care, education, problem gambling programs, youth sports and other important services rather than the pockets of offshore companies or even criminals.

In December, the government introduced its own legislation to achieve the same goal as Bill C-218, and I supported that legislation. In fact, I told the Minister of Justice months before that he should adopt my bill as government legislation so we could get it through the process as quickly as possible. I did not care if my name was on the bill as long as the much-needed change was made in Parliament. Eventually, the minister finally took me up on my suggestion and introduced Bill C-13.

To show my good faith and desire to work with the minister and the government to get this single-event sports betting legalized, I traded down in the order of precedence to give the government a fair chance to bring its legislation forward. Unfortunately, though, the introduction of the government's bill has not sped up the process. In fact, if anything, it has slowed it down. Twice now the government has cancelled debate on Bill C-13 at the last second in favour of other legislation.

I get it. The government has priorities and there are other important pieces of legislation before the House. However, if the government cannot make Bill C-13 a priority, then it does not have to. The Liberals can support Bill C-218 and all the work can be done during the Private Members' Business instead of during government business. It is true that there will be some slight differences between my bill and the government's legislation, however, I am confident that those differences can be addressed at the justice committee and that amendments could be made if needed. I am sure that the justice committee can make the right decision on this.

Let us get the legislation passed at second reading, sent to committee, amended if necessary, and then back to the House so we can get it to the Senate. The legalization of single-event sports betting clearly has support from members of all parties and the government clearly realizes that we should legalize it. Let us not play politics; let us get this job done.

Sunday is the biggest betting day in the country and we are missing out on millions of dollars for our communities.

I want to thank all parties again for their support of legalized single-event sports betting. There is a little difference, as I mentioned, between Bill C-218 and Bill C-13, but let us pass the private member's bill that will come forward in the next two weeks and then we can have the discussion at the justice committee. We are open to the amendments. We realize the horse racing industry has issues.

It is a great privilege to bring the bill forward. As mentioned before, others from the NDP also brought it forward. Together in the House of Commons this will be for the betterment of the country if we can pass Bill C-218.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

moved that Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is truly an honour to stand in the House today and begin the conversation we need on the safe and regulated sports betting act, which seeks to legalize single-event sports wagering in Canada.

The gaming industry in Canada is a multi-billion dollar industry. Casinos, racetracks and other gaming facilities operating across the country directly employ tens of thousands of people. The economic activity created in these communities with gaming facilities generate tens of thousands of dollars more.

The gaming industry pays $6.7 billion in salaries per year and generates over $9 billion in revenue for governments and much-needed charities every single year. However, none of that includes the single-event sport betting industry, which is a $14-billion industry in this country. Unfortunately, all of that activity is taking place underground. Offshore websites like Bodog and bet365 take in billions of dollars a year, and criminal organizations operating black market betting rings across the country are taking in billions of dollars more.

As we look at this, none of that money is going back toward the public good, and much of it goes toward funding other forms of criminality. It is true that in this country some form of sports betting is taking place legally, and I mentioned that. Horse racing is one. It takes place all across this country. There is also what is known as parlay betting in this country. It is what programs like Proline and Sport Select have, requiring bettors across the country to correctly place wagers on multiple events. If a bettor does not get them all right, then the ticket is unsuccessful.

Parlay betting delivers about $500 million in revenue nationally each year in this country, but that is a mere pittance compared to what single-event betting brings offshore and to the criminal enterprises in this country.

In my province of Saskatchewan, the provincial government uses the revenue from parlay betting products to fund sports body government industries, the youth and amateur sports, and we also use that money for the amateur arts in our province. Imagine what we could do with our share of $14 billion.

Legalization of single-event betting is something that, for many years, governments along with indigenous groups across Canada have been calling for. The legalization of single-event betting is supported by provincial and many municipal governments across this country. I have spoken with and received support from provincial cabinet ministers coast to coast.

Travis Toews, the Minister of Finance in the province of Alberta, wrote to me in an email, “The current restrictions do not allow the provinces to compete on an even playing field, thus allowing substantial revenues to flow to unregulated, illegal operations and offshore Internet sites without providing any financial benefits to Canadians. Removing these barriers to allow for provincially regulated alternatives would not only provide the provinces with financial benefits for their communities and social programs, but would also provide gaming consumers with security and integrity that is inherent in provincially regulated gaming.”

That is the sentiment that is echoed by other provincial governments in this land, and I think it really speaks for itself. We need regulation. The provinces want to regulate it, and they have the expertise on regulating gambling and betting. They have been doing it for the past 30-plus years.

I have also spoken several times with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, also known as SIGA. It believes that single-event betting would be a valuable addition to its businesses and would greatly benefit indigenous communities across my province of Saskatchewan.

SIGA's casinos are run to the highest regulatory standards of the Indigenous Gaming Regulators and are accredited by the Responsible Gambling Council of Canada.

This is done as a non-profit company that gives 100% of profits back to indigenous nations of Saskatchewan, to community organizations in Saskatchewan and to the Province of Saskatchewan. These are the organizations that we want running our betting operations, not the criminal enterprises in unregulated offshore websites that we have now in Canada.

I am going to address the elephant in the room: problem gambling and addiction. As it currently stands, there is absolutely no consumer protection or support for those struggling with gambling addictions built into the illegal sports betting systems that we have today in this country. The Hells Angels do not have a program for problem gambling.

Minister Toews mentioned in a letter to me that legalizing single-event wagering would allow governments to put strict standards and protections in place to protect consumers and offer assistance to those who need it. It would also give governments, as we all know, much-needed new sources of revenue that they could use to fund social programs, such as mental health programs, mental health research and addiction treatment, and broader sectors, such as education and health care.

The final thing we must consider is the context that we are debating the legislation in. I have had a few people ask me what the difference is between now and when the bill was introduced in the last Parliament. First of all, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer have all asked for Bill C-218. In a joint statement made by these five professional leagues back in June, they stressed the importance of a legal framework for sports betting that could shift consumers from unregulated black-market betting to the legal and safe marketplace that this would provide. This would allow for strong consumer protection and safeguards, and would protect the integrity of the game.

We must also consider that our current laws put Canada at a significant competitive disadvantage. Since the proposal was last considered in Canada, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down their national ban on single-event wagering. Now nearly every state south of the border, 48 to be exact, has either legalized single-event betting or has a bill before the state legislature seeking to do so.

These include the border states, such as New York and Michigan. This poses a unique threat to our communities of Niagara Falls and Windsor, whose economies rely largely on the cross-border tourism. Gaming is a big part of the tourism sector. It is a big concern for these communities that if they are not able to offer this service, they will lose a significant amount of business to their competition in the United States.

As a federal government, we need to be giving our local industries and communities the resources they need to be competitive. We must also consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has had a profound effect on many industries and communities in this country, and gaming and sports, the two industries most talked about in the context of sports betting, are no exception to that.

I am sure that many of my colleagues are familiar with the situation in the National Hockey League as it resumes its season in the tightly controlled bubbles of Toronto and Edmonton. No one was allowed in without first isolating for two weeks. Once their isolation was done, teams spent additional weeks or months in the bubble away from their homes and families.

This system worked. There was not a single positive test of any player inside the bubble in Toronto and Edmonton the entire time. All things considered, the National Hockey League's return to play was a great success.

However, anyone who follows sports closely knows that this model simply is not sustainable. The total loss of revenue from the lack of tickets sales of any kind will take a toll on many teams. Asking players to separate themselves from their families for months at a time just is not feasible. Even if fans can return to the stands sometime in the near future, the teams will need additional resources of revenue to begin their own financial recovery.

There is the Canadian Football League, adored, of course, in my home province of Saskatchewan. As many know, the rough Riders are the heart and soul of sports in the province of Saskatchewan. Every weekend, fans travel from across the province to pack Mosaic Stadium to the brim and cheer on the beloved Rough Riders.

Unfortunately, the Canadian Football League was forced to cancel its season this year, and I might add the only professional sport league in North America that has not played this past year. The prospect of having no fans in attendance meant too much of a revenue loss to sustain alongside the cost of a season.

We are still not sure what is going to happen with the smaller sports leagues. When I look at the Canadian Hockey League or the American Hockey League, the teams in those leagues are often as important to their communities as the big league clubs are to the big cities. These the leagues, similarly, had to cancel their season due to COVID-19 and the inability to generate any revenue without fans in the stands.

My mind goes to the small market community-owned hockey clubs that lost out on the revenue this past year, on which they desperately relied, teams like Prince Albert, Owen Sound, Peterborough, Baie-Comeau and many more. As we know, many other teams that represent their communities on the ice serve as a role model for countless children in their communities. That was also lost this past year.

Single-event sports betting is not a cure all, but it can be an important part of any plan to support our gaming and sports industries. It can provide not only a significant new source of revenue for sports leagues, but it will drive increased interest in individual games and events. This is a step that the federal government can take to support Canadian sport coast to coast.

Canadians in Winnipeg and Quebec City know what it is like to lose a beloved sport franchise. Winnipeg lost the first version of the Jets in 1996, and it did not get another team until 15 years later. Quebec City lost the Nordiques in 1995. Sadly, it is still without an NHL team in that city. Not only does it hurt the fans, but it hurts the city as a whole.

I will summarize a few points of the bill.

First, single-event sports betting is already taking place in Canada to the tune of $14 billion a year. However, instead of safely regulated, these activities are run by the black market gambling rings and offshore websites. None of this money, absolutely none of it, goes back into the public coffers and none of it goes to addressing issues like problem gambling or mental health support.

Second, the provinces, our indigenous communities and major leagues want single-game sports betting in Canada. Fourteen billion dollars is a lot of money and it does not just mean more economic activity and new, well-paying jobs. It also means new tax revenues to invest in education, health care as well as the more specific investments like mental health treatment, consumer protection and problem gambling programs that are much needed in the country.

Third, this is an opportunity to assist our sports and gaming industries in their recovery from the damage done by COVID-19. As we speak, gaming institutions across this country are operating at a greatly reduced capacity or not at all.

It is a common sense change. I hope my colleagues will support Bill C-218

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:30 p.m.
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Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, it is an interesting speech that, unfortunately, is not supported by any facts.

What we know about casinos and the trouble they are having right now, is that they are losing a demographic because they have effectively bankrupted it. Then they prey on the next demographic coming down the road. In this case, casinos are now looking for single-event sports betting as a way of supplementing their income because they are losing on all other fronts. This has been shown time and again.

What I take issue with is this notion that it is going to expand the economy. It is kind of like the NDP tax hike for wealthy Canadians that is going to pay for everything seven times over because it is actually using the same tax hike to pay for everything seven times over. The list of what would benefit from this, from hospitals to schools to addicted gamblers to major league sports franchises to amateur sport, is continuous.

The trouble is that casinos take four dollars out of the local economy for every dollar that goes into it. Why would you want to bankrupt small business right now with a new casino offering?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, this member of the Liberal Party has stated tonight he is comfortable with Canada losing $14 billion to criminal activity in this country. He is comfortable with sites such as Bodog and bet365 taking $4 billion out of this economy and paying nothing back.

The member has also confirmed tonight that he does not care about the problem gamblers, because those involved in criminal activities and these websites certainly do not care about that. There are people down in their basements betting every night on these uncontrolled sites. By regulating this through Bill C-218, it will be done by the provincial governments. The provincial governments have been regulating gambling for the last 30 years.

He is absolutely intent on leaving $14 billion, which could be put into the Canadian economy for health, education and gambling addiction. That is despicable to me.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct. When we look at the matter in front of us today, we see that the United States and other countries have moved to a regulated market. The result is that Canada has become a bastion for organized crime activity. Canada has become the laggard in regulation.

Canada has also become the neglecting party when it comes to dealing with the money we have to spend to fight organized crime. I would like the member to talk about that. How complex and organized do we have to be, and how much must we spend in taxpayer dollars, to fight the illegal market the parliamentary secretary is so comfortable with?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Windsor West for all his efforts in the last Parliament trying to pass his bill, which was exactly the same as this with respect to regulated single-event sports betting.

The member for Windsor West is right that we are losing out. Every province and territory in this country is losing out when offshore game sites, along with criminal activity, are using an underground economy. It is $14 billion today. If this bill does not pass the House of Commons, the $14 billion will go to $20 billion or $30 billion because it will take another three to four years to have this bill come forward.

It is now time for Canada to get on board and regulate it. The provinces want this, and they have been in the business of gaming for the last 30 years. I agree with the member for Windsor West. It is time this bill comes forward, gets passed in the House of Commons and becomes law, so the provinces can regulate it.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for his excellent remarks.

We do indeed need some regulation. Our colleague mentioned in his speech that this could be a source of funding that might help bring back the Nordiques, for example. Does he not fear that things could start going down a slippery slope? What effect would that have on people's mental health?

Could he drive that home once again? It seems to me that the crux of the matter is that we must ensure people do not end up alone at home making bets.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, the member from the Bloc well knows that people in the province of Quebec have been depressed ever since the Nordiques left in 1995. We are hoping the Nordiques will some day come back to the NHL.

Part of this program I have talked about is in respect to gambling addictions and mental health issues. Hopefully, this bill will give the provinces and territories the much-needed revenue to deal with the issues we know exist out there today.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I look forward to the return of the Nordiques, especially since, in my opinion, Alain Côté's goal was legal.

Having said that, such short, clear and succinct bills rarely generate that much interest and debate. Bill C-218 consists of three clauses. The first tells us its title, the safe and regulated sports betting act. The third and final clause states that this act comes into force on a date to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. All the substance of the bill is found in the second clause, which states that paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code is to be repealed. It is pretty straightforward. It is simple, but Bill C-218 is like a ghost haunting the halls of Parliament.

It started in 2011. At the time, so during the 40th Parliament, we had Bill C-627. The bill that had been introduced had the same objectives, but it was never debated.

There was a second attempt during the 41st Parliament, in 2013. That was Bill C-290, but it died in the Senate in October 2014.

During the 42nd Parliament, in other words, the last session of Parliament, there was Bill C-221, but it did not pass second reading on September 21, 2016.

Today, under the 43rd Parliament, we are back with Bill C-218. Hopefully, we can finally make an informed and effective decision on this bill.

Unsurprisingly, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the bill. It will do so because we have to take reality into account. The bill is in line with the legislative movement in the world. Our American neighbours already have laws allowing sports betting on a single sport. The attempt to end this practice was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2018, with the Murphy v. NCAA decision. That court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Congress to ban sports betting. Americans can therefore do this.

It is 2020 and people in France and England can place bets online. Earlier, in the lobby, I spoke to someone who made bets on a site based in Gibraltar, so we no longer need to meet someone in our city to bet. Now, it can be done everywhere in the world, and it is even easier in the United States.

Our neighbours to the south are competing unfairly Quebec and Canada in the gaming industry. Quebec has always been somewhat concerned about the pathological aspect of gambling and the use of that money. My Conservative colleague spoke about $14 billion. In Quebec, we are talking about $27 million a year, which is no small amount. What is more, we have always felt that this money should not go into the pockets of organized crime but should instead be replenishing the government coffers.

Quebec therefore set up an institution called Loto-Québec, which manages gaming in Quebec. However, the gaming industry in New York state and the entire online gaming industry are currently competing unfairly with Loto-Québec. It is time for that to stop.

Bill C-218 seeks to regulate gaming and make it safer for the people who engage in it. My intention is not to say that betting is a virtue, but it does exist. It always has and it always will. Our job as legislators is to regulate it as best we can.

I will now go back to what I was saying at the beginning of my speech. The title of Bill C-218 is as follows: safe and regulated sports betting act. In my opinion, we must ensure that this industry is regulated so we can better protect the players. It is a major industry around the world.

We want to avoid unfair competition, regulate gaming more effectively and be part of the global movement.

There was a situation in Quebec less than a year ago, in December 2019, involving an 18-year old man from Laval who racked up an online gambling debt of $80,000. When online gambling debts are controlled by the mob, the interest rate ranges from 3% to 5% a week and the debt increases exponentially. That is a scourge that we need to tackle.

This young many obviously did not have the means to pay that kind of money and ended up committing suicide in his home. He ended his life because he was unable to manage his gambling debt and he feared the worst for the safety of his family and the people around him. The website in question was tied to the Montreal Mafia.

We do not want that. Our responsibility as legislators is to prevent situations like that from happening again. The National Assembly of Quebec decided to tackle this problem as best it could. In 2016, it passed Bill 74 to regulate gambling in Quebec. However, the Superior Court of Quebec deemed the bill to be illegal because it did not fall within Quebec's jurisdiction. According the court, Quebec did not have the authority to prohibit gambling.

Quebec's hands are therefore tied. There is a pathological addiction to gambling among people who play. We want to control this problem, and we have some expertise through casinos and commercial lotteries. However, we need the additional tool of Bill C-218 to prevent situations as sad as the one of this 18-year-old young man.

In Quebec, we are talking about $27 million, but my colleague was talking about $14 billion. No matter how many millions or billions of dollars we leave to organized crime, I think it is a disgrace and that we owe it to ourselves to take back this jurisdiction and ensure that people play safely within a well-regulated framework.

Some parliamentarians opposed to the bill have concerns about cheating. I would just like to point out that section 209 of the Criminal Code already prohibits cheating at play. This risk already exists, and will always exist, even after Bill C-218 is passed, and so I do not think this is a problem that should concern us.

We must instead ensure that people who gamble do so within a safe and regulated framework and that the profits from gambling do not end up in organized crime, but remain in government coffers to benefit the citizens of Quebec and Canada.