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.