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.