Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

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


Kevin Waugh  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


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

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, what a day we have today. It is certainly an honour for me to speak to this legislation once again. Now we are in our third reading, after a robust study at the justice committee.

It is worth noting that Bill C-218 returns to us with a slight amendment, supported by all parties, to ensure that proper protections are in place for Canada's proud and long-standing horse-racing industry.

At first reading and second reading, and in committee, I had the opportunity to discuss many of the issues at the heart of single-event sports betting. Even though single-event sports betting is prohibited by the Criminal Code, it is still a $14 billion industry here in Canada. As I have said before in this place, it is all done by unregulated and unsupervised offshore betting sites and black market bookmakers. There are no consumer protections in place. There are no problem-gambling programs offered and no guidelines that bookmakers are required to follow. This also means that the economic benefits are not being felt by Canadians.

I do not want to repeat what I have discussed already through the various stages of this legislative process. However, for the benefit of my colleagues who did not participate in the justice committee study, I want to highlight some of the important points that were raised by witnesses during the justice committee study on Bill C-218.

The first comment is from Shelley White. She is the CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council, which is an independent organization that works to ensure there are adequate gambling safeguards in place to promote the well-being of Canadians and communities. She said:

[I]t is RGC's neutral and independent stance that we recommend Bill C-218 be passed. This is a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from health, mental health, education, financial services and the policing sectors with the gambling industry to create a made-in-Canada responsible gambling culture comprised of evidence-informed regulations and leading practices. We have the opportunities to learn from other jurisdictions who've come before us and applied the highest level of safeguards.

This same point was reiterated by Paul Melia, who is the president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. He said:

I think the legislation provides an opportunity to provide greater services and support to those who may become addicted to gambling than the current system, where we have an unregulated market and where it's going on. We're not really aware of how much is going on, who may be addicted and who might be harmed, so I think there's an opportunity to provide the appropriate services.

I put these two comments first because they address the concerns I have heard from many constituents of mine and from Canadians who have written to me from coast to coast.

When we talk about gambling in any form, mental health and addictions are major concerns, and rightfully so. However, the reality is that the current situation is far worse for those who are struggling with addiction and mental illness. By allowing offshore sites and black market bookmakers to monopolize single-event sports betting, we are ensuring that adequate consumer protections and assistance programs are not available to those who desperately need them. As addressed by the Responsible Gambling Council and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, this bill presents an opportunity for us to rectify that issue once and for all.

The next comment I want to touch on is from Unifor president Jerry Dias. He said:

It goes without saying that revenues generated in illicit, illegal, underground black market gaming operations do nothing to contribute to good jobs for workers in Canada. This money is siphoned off into the pockets of offshore operators and organized crime. On the other hand, by creating a legal and regulated market for single-game sports betting in Canada, we could help protect thousands of good, unionized jobs in gaming locations across the country and potentially create many more.

I have two more comments from the committee on which I want to touch.

The first is from Zane Hansen, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which is responsible for managing several casinos in my home province of Saskatchewan. He provided some important context for the gaming industry, given the COVID-19 pandemic. He said:

...having single-event wagering as an approved form of gambling to incorporate into our business model will really assist us in rebuilding and going forward. It's going to be a whole new world getting our customers back into our building and feeling safe and comfortable.

By the way, Zane Hansen provides what I feel is important insight from the industry's perspective because it is also from an indigenous perspective.

Bill C-218 would provide a significant opportunity to help the gaming sector begin the rebuilding process. This applies not only to SIGA or Saskatchewan, but to all establishments and communities across the country.

The final comment I want to touch on is from David Shoemaker, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, as it gives an all-encompassing overview of the legislation. He said:

The timing is right for Canada to expand sports betting. This bill has the potential to unlock new growth opportunities, reduce illegal betting and generate revenues for both the sport industry and governments. Our interests are in ensuring that single sport betting is introduced in a responsible, effective and profitable manner.

I am not sure I need to add anything else to Mr. Shoemaker’s remarks tonight, other than to point out that the support coming from the Canadian Olympic Committee is representative of the fact it is not just professional sport that wants the legislation to pass, but amateur sport as well. Bill C-218 is in the best interests of all athletes.

We know the legislation has support across party lines, throughout industries and from countless stakeholder groups. Let us not delay any further and get Bill C-218 sent to the Senate so it can be considered and hopefully passed there.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing this bill forward and for getting it through the various stages. Hopefully, tonight we can see this put to an end and it will make its way over to the Senate.

One of the things I find very attractive about the legislation, which the member brought up in his comments, is that as a lot of this activity is already going on, there is an opportunity for the government to get involved and generate legal revenue from it.

Would the member like to expand a bit on that.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Kingston and the Islands for his support on this bill, Bill C-218.

He is absolutely correct. All the federal government has to do is take a single line out of the Criminal Code to give the provinces and territories the much-needed support to move forward with single event sport betting. This is just the first of many processes. If we can get it passed tonight and on to the Senate, where it can look at it and make the necessary adjustments if it wants to, then it will give that power to the provincial governments, through their lotteries, which quite frankly have been dealing with gaming institutions for the past 30-plus years. We are really looking forward to the legislation moving forward.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, that is happening in the industry now. In 2018, in the United States, New Jersey challenged the bill, because the only place people could access single game betting was in Nevada. New Jersey took it to the Supreme Court and won.

Therefore, what we have right now, two or three years later, are states like Michigan and New York, which are bordering Canada, offering single game betting already. The member is right. The issue is that in Canada, particularly closer to the border, as Quebec and Ontario are, we do not have that luxury today. Obviously, the benefit goes to those casinos that are closer to Canada as they will take a lot of our money away and the prosperity we could enjoy in Canada, in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. in particular.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his work on this. The committee also worked very diligently on a robust study to get it back to the chamber.

I have a quick question, though, regarding the money that will be taken away from organized crime. One thing is clear in reflecting on this, and that is that it will actually also take money away from the organized crime that police spend on because organized crime uses that money for other types of criminal activities. There will be a net benefit for Canadians and policing.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Windsor West for all his support going forward with this bill. Unfortunately, his bill in the last Parliament did not pass, so we are here again, trying to push it across the finish line.

The member for Windsor West is correct. We heard in the justice committee testimony that a lot of this money is going to organized crime, fuelling drugs and fuelling guns. We are not going to get it all back. There is $14 billion that we know is bet, illegally, today in Canada.

A lot of this money needs to come back to the provincial coffers. With this bill passing, I think we are going to do very soon.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to this private member's bill.

I do want to express my support for Bill C-218, the safe and regulated sports betting act that is before us. I also want to take the opportunity to congratulate and thank some other members too, in particular the member for Windsor West, who just asked a question a moment ago. He brought forward a similar bill that did not get to where we think this one will get to after the vote today.

The legislative process is very interesting in the way things can work their way through this House and the way bills can come forward and be lost, but the issue may not be lost and it can keep gaining momentum. Then somebody else will bring it forward, or perhaps a government will bring it forward. Eventually, it will end up getting here. Although the bill from the member for Windsor West did not make it through, it certainly played a role in advancing this issue in this House.

In my own caucus, I think of the member for St. Catharines, who routinely talks about this issue and brings it up, making sure it was at the forefront and people were continually considering it. I had many opportunities over dinner and at various times listening to him talk about this issue.

What we have come to realize is this is a $14-billion industry in Canada. Right now, a lot of that money, the majority of it, is offshore or in crime. We have an opportunity here to recognize the fact that this is already happening, so why not use it as an opportunity to regulate the industry, control it, and get that money out of crime. Getting that money legitimately into our economy will make sure that governments, whether federal, provincial or regional, have the opportunity to benefit from this as well, and that the money is not just in organized crime or hiding behind legitimate ways of doing business.

One other thing I will add is that I genuinely think this will increase the integrity of sports. It will help, in particular, the booking of sports and the police in doing their work to make sure that things are being done legitimately.

There are a number of good arguments for this legislation. There is the angle of tourism, as it relates to sports betting and what it means to certain tourism industries in certain parts of country. I think of Niagara and Windsor off the top of my head. As I am from Ontario, those are the two that come to mind first.

The government plans to support this piece of legislation. It is long overdue, and I am happy to lend my voice to that support and vote in favour of this when we get to that moment shortly.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:20 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to participate again in this process.

I want to thank all the members who were part of this effort, and not only this one but the previous one and even the one before that, which my comments will reflect on.

The former member for Windsor—Tecumseh, Joe Comartin, had a bill that went through this process and it got to the Senate. However, it languished there for a number of years and was never passed. With that lesson in mind, I am hoping that this process will go to the Senate, and the other chamber will be a little more expedient. I thank the government side for its support of this bill, Bill C-218, as well the Conservative Party, and I am hoping that the independent senators will connect and move this forward.

As has been noted, it is very important to acknowledge that things have changed a little, which is one of the reasons why I think the bill before us has more hope and opportunity than the previous ones. The NHL, NBA and other professional sports leagues have not just joined the process of getting this bill passed, but have changed to supporting it from being opposed to it in the past. That related to the fact that they had a monopoly and a system and structure that were based out of Nevada.

The situation with these restrictions today goes back to the United States and the syndicated crime that created Las Vegas. These were struck down by the court's ruling in New Jersey, which said the leagues should not have a monopoly on something that had been invented. They did not necessarily have a right to it. It had evolved over a number of different processes and was shattered, creating these differences.

We are different from other countries in that this type of regulation has come into effect through Europe and other place around the world. We can bet on our phones, we can bet on our computers and we can bet in a number of ways, but that is sending money to organized crime offshore and not helping the public purse. It is not helping people to deal with addictions or to identify strategies.

One of the most important things that we heard at committee was about the responsible gaming element and strategies to have people be registered through the process to get help, to redirect resources to it and to work with people to flag those problems before they get worse. This is as opposed to dealing with bookies in a backyard or over the phone with an offshore account who do everything they can to bait people into gambling more. What is recognized in this process is that we have a responsible, moral and ethical view in dealing with this, because if we do not, we leave vulnerable people in the hands of others.

I will wrap up my comments by reminding members that we have been here before. We had a bill pass in the House of Commons that was pretty much the same as this one and, later on, we had my private member's bill. We have to get this bill to the other chamber and have to get support there. I am working with members in the other chamber already, and I hope all members do.

If we are working on COVID-19, on policy and a whole series of things, one thing we can do right now is direct money away from organized crime and put it to the public good. We are all looking for, and debating, ways to help with the financial constraints during this pandemic. In this situation, more people have been using the online and offshore accounts than ever before.

Unfortunately, right now we cannot help some of the other good industries that are associated with this, like Casino Windsor and other places. However, the reality is that we would redirect traffic from organized crime. If we get this bill, Bill C-218, passed, it promises more resources and more support to make sure that people will be able to do this activity in a responsible, regulated manner.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:25 p.m.
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Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-218.

I had the privilege of listening to my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood when the bill was introduced and during the first round of speeches. I found his remarks very informative. I am taking the opportunity to speak today, but I do not pretend in any way that I will be able to teach the House as much he did.

Bill C-218 is actually quite simple. It consists of three clauses: one for the title of the act, one for its coming into force and one that proposes to replace a Criminal Code paragraph that currently excludes, from the definition of lottery, “bookmaking, pool selling or the making or recording of bets, including bets made through the agency of a pool or pari-mutuel system, on any race or fight, or on a single sporting event or athletic contest”. This would in effect decriminalize what is known as single event betting, which usually involves sporting events.

This bill kind of reminds me of a cat, not because it winds up sleeping on a shelf like a cat, which is what sometimes happens to certain committee recommendations that certain governments shelve, but because it has had several lives, as some of my colleagues mentioned earlier.

During the 40th Parliament, NDP MP Joe Comartin's Bill C-267 was never called for debate, unfortunately. During the 41st Parliament, NDP MP Joe Comartin once again introduced the bill, this time as Bill C-290, and it progressed a little farther and was passed at third reading without a recorded division. Back then, the current member for Winnipeg North spoke on behalf of the Liberal Party. Bill C-290 then died in the Senate.

During the 42nd Parliament, the NDP member for Windsor West introduced the bill. Unfortunately, it was defeated at second reading by Liberal and Conservative votes. The Bloc Québécois, on the other hand, voted unanimously in favour of the bill.

At the time, one of the arguments for killing this bill was that decriminalizing single sports betting might lead to cheating. That is like saying that leaving sports betting in the hands of organized crime would ensure that cheating does not happen. It is a weak argument, to say the least. Criminalizing something does not make it disappear. It just drives it underground. That is why this bill seeks to take sports betting out of the hands of organized crime.

In the 43rd Parliament, that version of the bill was passed at second reading with only 15 votes against it. Given that the government has introduced Bill C-13, which is substantively similar to this bill, we can expect Bill C-218 to make it to the Senate this time.

There are several advantages to decriminalizing single sports betting. One is that it would protect gamblers. Allowing the mafia to control sports betting opens the door to things like loansharking.

I will echo my colleagues who mentioned the case of the young man in Laval who ended his life in December 2019. He was only 18. The coroner's inquest showed that the man's suicide was tied to an $80,000 debt that he racked up on the Internet, on a gambling site that was run by the Montreal mafia.

According to an article written at the time, the young man gambled online. To access the site, users entered their name and password on the homepage, at which point they could bet on the results of all sorts of professional sporting events, and even on the results of the U.S. presidential election.

According to our research, the name of the site is registered to a corporation in Panama. This site has been hosted on a server in Costa Rica since March 2015 but did not become active until a year later. Using network management tool, we can see that the corporation that owns the server hosts roughly 75 other online gambling sites. The site ranks 58th in number of visitors with roughly 200 daily visitors. We learned that the Montreal mafia's sports betting was run by a manager and working under him is an assistant and some bookies, in other words, recruiters. The bookies are responsible for the gamblers they recruit. The interest rate for paying off debt climbs by 3% to 5% per week. We are talking about mafia control and loan sharking. In this case, we are talking about people who lost their home because of online sports betting. What is more, there is no way to protect minors, who can easily access these sites.

If the ownership of these sites could be publicly disclosed, particularly by Crown corporations like Loto-Québec, it would mean that we could also expect more money to be injected into the fight against pathological gambling. Crown corporations also contribute in other ways. They give back to society. For example, Loto-Québec sponsors many events, owns and acquires public assets, and funds cultural events. Society will therefore benefit if we take sports betting out of the hands of organized crime.

Another advantage is that we would be be taking money away from organized crime. During an investigation conducted in Quebec as part of Operation Colisée, an expert estimated that, between December 2004 and December 2005, the Rizzuto clan took in approximately $27 million a year from illegal sports betting. We can expect that amount to be even higher now. By taking this revenue away from organized crime, we would be preventing criminals from diversifying their operations. For example, after a major drug seizure, organized crime can turn to illegal betting to survive. By cutting off this source of income, we are hurting organized crime.

Another advantage that my colleagues have mentioned is that governments could see an increase in revenue from decriminalizing single sports betting. Deloitte has pointed out that within five years of decriminalization, Canada's revenues could go from $500 million to as much as $28 billion, which is a handsome sum.

In the U.S., the industry grew after our neighbours to the south legalized it in response to Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. More than 25 U.S. states now allow sports betting.

Decriminalization could lead to competition. For example, the casinos in Detroit, Michigan, would be in direct competition with those in the riding of the member for Windsor West. Quebec would be no exception, since New York state has legalized sports betting. Gambling establishments in Plattsburgh, which is less than 90 minutes from the U.S. border, could end up competing with Loto-Québec once the border reopens.

In conclusion, beyond all these advantages, we must not forget the gamblers themselves. In talking with my colleagues, I realize that there is interest in sports betting. Many of my colleagues would very likely be happy to be able to make bets legally, if they could do so without contributing to companies that send their income to tax havens without paying tax. Lastly, they could place bets using French-language platforms.

For all these good reasons, the Bloc Québécois will be pleased to support Bill C-218. We hope that this time, the cat will not have to use up its nine lives.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2021 / 6:35 p.m.
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Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, the prohibition on single-event sports betting is one where we are all well behind the rest of the world, including our neighbours to the south. I believe, and others believe, it is time that we simply catch up with the rest of the world. Instead of strong regulations and consumer protections, right now we have a system run by criminals and offshore companies. Instead of profits going toward the public good, they are actually going to funding their criminality.

It is time for that to end in this country. There is a clear consensus across party lines that Canadians agree with that tonight. I am very hopeful that in a few moments, we will be able to formalize that consensus and get this legislation sent where it should be, the Senate.

As this will likely be my last opportunity for me to speak in the House on this legislation, I want to thank all the members of Parliament from all sides in this place who have supported Bill C-218 through the legislative process. In particular, though, I want to thank the member for Niagara Falls, the member for Essex and the member for Windsor West for their hard work and support on this file.

I also want to thank the many stakeholders who came forward to provide their expertise and insight to me directly, the justice committee, and all my colleagues for their conversation. Since I brought this bill forward last February, I have heard from provincial and municipal governments, industry organizations, mental health and responsible gambling advocacy groups, amateur and professional sports organizations, sports media and various other groups. All of them provided valuable information, which was so crucial to the development of this legislation.

This could prove to be a historic day for our country. The passage of Bill C-218 here in the House of Commons would be a clear indication that the elected representatives of the people of Canada believe that this change is in the best interest of all Canadians. I am hopeful that upon passage of this legislation, our colleagues in the Senate will take up this legislation with haste, so that this outdated prohibition can finally be removed from the Criminal Code in Canada. It is well past time that we do so again.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
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Windsor—Tecumseh Ontario


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.
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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.
See context


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


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


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.