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 repeals paragraph 207(4)‍(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race or fight or on a single sport event or athletic contest.


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

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


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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The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind the parliamentary secretary that he is to address all questions and comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:45 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-218. I want to start by thanking my former colleague and friend Joe Comartin who brought the bill forward in previous Parliaments. I have had it since then and I want to thank the member for bring it forward again in partnership. As we have heard, even from the Bloc, it is due time for this strong legislation.

I like the reference the international reputation and the work going on to fight illegal gaming across the world. That is a choice we have to make here right now. It is a choice we should have made before.

Unfortunately, the heavy lobbying by the professional sports organizations over a number of different decades have stopped Canada from moving forward. What has changed over the years is something the New Democrats saw taking place, which was the fact that this was moving across the globe and even into the United States. The court system was readjusting the Nevada circuit, which was borne out of criminal organization. It was finally broken down to provide this type of organized effort to regulate the industry across the United States, hence why the sporting organizations finally came to their senses and understood that we need a better plan.

Organized crime and those who prey on people have got away with this for far too long, not just in Canada but across the globe, because of an unregulated product. We spend millions of dollars in local areas to fight them and billions of dollars to fight them across the globe. When we look at the bill, all it would do is adjust something that is necessary at this point in time.

I have travelled across the country and have seen the people who have been affected by the unregulated market. The thugs, those doing the offshore betting and organized crime element, are not dealing with the social repercussions in regard to betting in general. In fact, we have to spend extra money just to fight those elements.

When we look at a province like Ontario, it is legal right now to bet on three games, but not on one or two games. The change has not happened here because of paternalism of a central government that goes back to colonialism.

We are asking that the provinces have a chance to fight back. The provinces need to make their own choices on what products and services they will offer their citizens. They will be the front-line people to deal with the repercussions if there is some negative activity with regard to single-event sports gaming. It will give them power and custodianship of a responsible product that is then put out. We are talking about the public good.

Right now, the system of three works against individual citizens. It is called a parlay bet because it is a rigged bet. It makes it very difficult for people to win and creates further problems and complications. This allows for us to come into the modern age of a regulated system.

Who are we fighting? We are fighting criminal activity from the organized elements connected to the Hells Angels and other organized crime. We are fighting those in the backrooms, basements and bars who run the numbers and make profits off the backs of people.

The alternatives are to bring in this regulated market. With the regulated market, we have revenue to deal with a number of different problems. We also have revenue that will bring public good.

For example, Michigan is the most recent to bring this into the United States. We saw that this was going to take place. It is putting its revenue toward helping firefighters who get cancer or other illnesses from the job. The rest of the money goes to education. Each province will get to chose what product it wants out there. It will decide how that goes out. Then it will decide where that revenue goes.

When we look at the history of this bill, it also comes from competition. Billions of dollars of legally regulated betting is now at risk. When we look at communities like Windsor or Hamilton and across the country, we have tourist destinations where people visit. Those places no longer have a product available. They have to compete with the United States and with the phone.

There is a sad story taking place here. There are the value-added jobs in the actual regulated sports industry business and all the entertainment that goes around it. Then we have all those doing the work for the web design, running the different scenarios and the work that goes on behind the analysis and activity that takes place.

We get no benefit from that right now. We send tens of billions of dollars underground that then goes to human smuggling, violent crime, prostitution and drugs. Then we have to use our other revenue to fight that at the cost of millions of dollars locally and hundreds of millions of dollars nationally. It is time to change that.

That is why when I introduced my bill, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Labour Congress were on board with it. Think of that. We have the business and labour communities together. The provinces and a number of organizations are looking at this through the tourism lens. A number of different groups understand the status quo does not work and that is why Canada has been left behind. That is why Canada now has to compete with illegal activity.

Here are some headlines of some recent illegal activity: “9 arrested, $35 million of items seized in organized crime bust”, “Police bust illegal casino and spa north of Toronto, seize 20,000 sq. ft. mansion and $1M in cash”, “Police lay 228 charges in alleged illegal gambling ring tied to Hells Angels”.

This is what is baffling about the government's current position on this. If we look at the most recent article, there are all kinds of things in it that are quite shocking that are tied to the unregulated market. Here are the words: “Dozens of suspects are facing hundreds of charges”, “illegal gaming”, “two-year-long investigation”, “18 other agencies and police services” had to come together, “further acts of violence”, “five allegedly illegal gambling websites”.

That is what is happening with Hells Angels and others. They have moved not only to thuggery on the streets but organized activity online. There were people gunned down in Toronto. A homicide is tied to this. There were 21 firearms seized, along with cash, vehicles, jewellery, vacation homes and gold and silver bars. That is what we are fighting against. There were 28 people charged with a total of 228 offences in this one bust alone. What the government is doing right now is not good enough. It is not good to put this onto another Parliament. We cannot compete out there with this activity.

Then there are the good things that can happen with a regulated market. Caesars Windsor, for example, has organized jobs with benefits. Money is going toward dealing with gaming addiction, which is super important to deal with in all of this. There is no way Hells Angels and other organized criminals are giving to the United Way. They are not giving to the charities and saying they will help them deal with the addiction problem. They are extending credit, giving people more products, giving them a raw bet, putting them further in debt and also making people dealing with this feel shame due to their admission of doing an illegal activity. The type of support that is necessary for people should be out there and people should not feel shame when dealing with it.

That is what is upsetting about the parliamentary secretary's intervention on this. We are telling all of the people who have those addiction issues that they have to keep it underground. For mental health issues, supports for families, all of those things, there needs to be money to deal with them. It is the responsibility of the provinces and the federal government, in this place, to deal with this. This is an opportunity for them to use revenues for the public good.

I mentioned what Michigan is doing, but I can say that right now, with COVID-19, we can do one of two things as the sports leagues emerge and as the betting activity stays at home, and we are all waiting. We can give them a bonus. That is what is happening. They are getting a bonus under COVID-19 and they are not going to be paying the big profit tax that maybe some other companies will. Those in organized crime are not going to saunter up to the table and say they will give money for infrastructure, health care and education. They are going to squirrel away that money either in Canada or somewhere else in the world and use it for all the other illegal activities.

From just the few stories I have noted, we are going to have to pay more money to the RCMP and to provincial and municipal police to fight this. That is what has taken place. It is time to change, time to come of age and time for us to grow up.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-218 put forward by my friend, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, entitled an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

My interest in this topic is not related to personal habits. I lost interest in sports gambling when, as kids, we collected hockey cards and played a game in which we flipped them to the ground against an opponent. Someone would flip their card and watch it land, heads or tails, and then someone else would flip their card. If the second person matched the first, heads or tails, they would win the card. That is how I lost my 1954 Topps Gordie Howe card, which, if I still had it today, would be worth $13,000.

My best bets over the years could have been profitable, had I backed them up with money. That would include Muhammad Ali knocking out George Foreman, the Tiger-Cats beating the Edmonton Eskimos in the 1986 Grey Cup, and the Czechs beating the Soviet Union in the 1968 world hockey championships.

If I am not a sports gambler, why am I addressing the matter of sports betting? It became obvious to me at an early age that people liked to bet on sports. Growing up in Hamilton exposed me to lots of it. Right near my grandparents' house in the east end was the race track known as the Hamilton Jockey Club. Although it had an illustrious racing history, Queen's Plates and all, its location near the steel mills in the days when workers were paid in cash meant that some dads came home after payday with no money.

Another feature of the east end was the floating crap game, once played on the street in storefronts, which were able to move away quickly if the police showed up. The last big one took place on July 2, 1959 at the corner of Beach Road and Albemarle, complete with drinks being served by a relative of mine who had been involved in the illicit alcohol trade. The reason the date is important is it was during a royal visit. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was here, and that tied up almost the entire police force for the entire day.

Another relative was a well-known retired athlete and tavern owner. Fifty years ago people could place a bet on almost any sporting event in the tavern with Roy, the in-house bookie, who even had his own private telephone line.

Then of course there were the Irish Sweepstakes, well-known around the world, with winners becoming known to their communities and yet it was a total secret, supposedly, as to how one actually purchased an Irish Sweepstake ticket. One local winner won enough to retire as a waiter and purchase a farm.

My favourite story about the prevalence of gambling in our community came from the late and much beloved Sister Maria Cordis. Sister Maria was a well-known music teacher in the city who regaled us with stories. As a young novitiate, she was walking downtown and saw a man sitting in the park grass, slumped over. She took out a $5 bill and slipped it into his hand and said, “For His grace.” The next week she walked past that same man who waved her over and handed her $100. “What is this?” she asked. The man replied, “His Grace paid 20 to 1 at Woodbine.”

Sports gambling has been going on forever. The historians say the Greeks and the Romans bet on chariot races. It seems to be a natural human instinct to make a wager on almost anything, but especially sports competitions. Gambling as a whole involves staggering amounts of money.

In Hamilton, we were considering a downtown casino. We learned that the amount of money gambled by Hamiltonians at various Ontario Lottery and Gaming sites in one year was $40 million. As much as we, as a government, have had concerns about the obvious negative impacts and consequences of gambling, we have to acknowledge the reality that it does take place.

Not so long ago, the idea of single-event sports betting was opposed by major sports leagues and notably the Canadian Football League, here in Canada of course. The attitude among the North American pro sports leagues has changed over the past few years, to the point that serious consideration should now be given to the request from the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood.

However, I will say again that sports betting is an old story and an apocryphal one. It is related to the Grey Cup and goes back to 1954. That year, the Montreal Alouettes had assembled one of the greatest teams ever, with Sam Etcheverry, Hal Patterson, Red O'Quinn, Alex Webster and so many others. They were the huge favourites to win that game. The famous Chuck Hunsinger fumble led to a last-minute touchdown and an Edmonton victory. One bettor won so much money that he flew the entire Edmonton Eskimos team that day from Toronto to Montreal to celebrate, because in 1954 Toronto was fast asleep by sundown and was no place for a victory party. That is how much money he won. That story was confirmed for me by none other than Normie Kwong.

What confronts us now is, as always, to ensure that we carefully regulate gambling in a responsible manner with appropriate supports for individuals who may suffer from addictive behaviour and for the accompanying toll on personal and family lives.

The profits made through illegal gambling by organized crime do not find their way to supportive services. The Criminal Code currently prohibits all forms of gaming and betting, unless a particular form of gambling is specifically permitted. The provinces and territories are permitted to conduct or license a broad range of lottery schemes, including betting on the outcome of more than one sporting event, such as all of the NFL games in a weekend. However, there are exclusions, such as betting on a single event such as the Grey Cup game. The proposal before us would remove that exclusion.

We also need to take into account the competitiveness of our industries, whether it is making steel, mining potash or gambling, because our neighbours in the United States have legalized single-event sports betting. This puts their operators in a better position to offer a broader range of products and enables them to siphon off some of the money that should be coming to Canadian operators. This, of course, includes indigenous peoples and communities, for whom these proceeds can be critical, as we have seen during the pandemic lockdowns this year.

Among many things to be considered is the effect on the horse racing industry. The provinces and territories could be allowed wagering on single horse races, which could affect racetrack revenues. Repealing paragraph 207(4)(b), as contemplated by this bill, would permit the establishment of pari-mutuel betting, which could further impact the racing industry.

I want to congratulate the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for taking the initiative to allow Parliament to explore a further enhancement to the gambling industry, and all of the jobs and activities it supports, through his thoughtful recommendations regarding changes to the Criminal Code. He has ideal credentials for sitting in this place because he did play-by-play sports. To me that is an outstanding credential, since I did that as well.

Those of us who are close to the sports and games understand in a very broad way that people are going to find a way to place a wager in a sporting event. It is up to us as the regulators to see if we can create what is proposed in this bill: a safe, legal and careful way of ensuring that supports are in place for those with problems, but that there are no negative impacts on the sports involved, especially in the horse racing industry.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 6:05 p.m.
See context


Tony Baldinelli Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak in support of my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-218, an act to amend the Criminal Code to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada.

I want to thank my Conservative colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, for bringing this important piece of legislation forward. I also want to thank my NDP colleague, the member for Windsor West, for being one of Parliament's most vocal supporters for legalizing single-game sports betting.

I am proud to add my voice to this effort through second reading debate today, and I sincerely hope that all parties in the House will provide their support for this important piece of legislation, which is long overdue. In addition to legalizing single-game sports betting, Bill C-218 would help stimulate the creation of much-needed new jobs across Canada, generate millions in annual new revenues, spur tourism recovery and, more importantly, undermine the efforts of organized crime.

I will discuss these benefits in more detail, but first I want to recognize the 40,000 hard-working tourism employees in my community of Niagara, including those in our two casinos.

Before the pandemic, Fallsview Casino and Casino Niagara employed approximately 4,000 workers. Due to COVID-19, these casinos have been closed since last March. It is my sincerest hope that we can soon reach a state in Ontario whereby our tourism recovers and our two casinos can return to a sense of normalcy and responsibly reopen so that workers can begin returning to the jobs that they so dearly miss.

Bill C-218 may be a small bill, but if it is passed by Parliament, it could and would make a big difference. Over the past 10 years, there have been several opportunities for Parliament to address and remedy the situation. Each time, however, this opportunity has been lost. The most recent example, Bill C-221, was introduced in the first session of the 42nd Parliament by my colleague for Windsor West. Despite his valiant efforts, the bill was defeated at second reading by the majority Liberal government of the day. Hopefully, this time will be different.

I am encouraged by the kind words of several Liberal members who have been supportive of this initiative. Some even campaigned on it in the last general election. With cross-party support, it is my hope that we can come together as a Parliament and pass this legislation.

There have been some significant changes to the gaming industry landscape across North America since Bill C-221 was defeated. In a 2018 ruling, the United States Supreme Court legalized single-game sports betting. In response to this ruling, many states rushed to implement this newly legal and hugely popular activity. As of December 2019, 13 U.S. states had already legalized single-game sports betting, including cross-border states like New York, Michigan and Montana. These states are Canada's direct international competitors, and compete against border communities in Canada for tourism visitation, jobs, business and revenue generation.

Another development in the aftermath of this ruling was a shift among major professional sports leagues, which have become far more favourable in their support of single-game sports betting. For example, on June 15, 2018, the NHL released a statement. It read: “The National Hockey League has long opposed legalized sports betting; however, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling, the practical reality is that the landscape for sports betting in North America has changed dramatically. The National Hockey League is no longer opposed to Canadian federal legislation that may be contemplated to eliminate the provisions in Canada's Criminal Code that prohibit provincial governments from offering bets on single sporting events.”

Other major professional sports leagues in Canada that endorse single-game sport betting after this ruling include, but are not limited to, the Canadian Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. I cannot overstate the significance of these changes and what it means to have the support of these leagues behind this legislation.

According to a 2017 national economic benefits report published by the Canadian gaming industry, $17.1 billion was generated by this industry, including $16.1 billion in direct gaming activity and $1 billion in non-gaming revenue, which includes items such as food and beverages, entertainment, accommodations, retail and so on. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, gaming in Canada directly supported 182,500 full-time jobs and generated $9.2 billion annually to fund government and community programs and services. Of significance, the Canadian gaming industry has also invested $120 million annually on problem gaming treatment and initiatives to promote research, awareness and prevention as well as responsible gaming programs. It is incredible to think that these were the contributions of the gaming industry to our economy as of 2017. One can only imagine the growth that is ahead when our Canadian Parliament finally agrees to legalize this activity.

A final benefit I would like to discuss is the impact legalization would have on the illegal gaming market that currently exists. In January 2020, the Canadian Gaming Association noted that Canadians are estimated to be spending $10 billion annually through illegal sports betting operations controlled by, or orchestrated by, organized crime.

In December 2019, the Ontario Provincial Police put an end to a sophisticated illegal gaming operation through an investigation called Project Hobart. The police operation led to the arrest of 28 individuals who are now facing a combined 228 charges. From January 1, 2019, to July 2019, a period of just seven months, their illegal gaming websites are alleged to have brought in approximately $13 million in illicit funds. Over the period of five years, the police believe they grossed more than $131 million in illegal revenues. These revenues are a strong source of funding for organized crime.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said the illegal gaming network placed individuals, society and the economy at risk. It is for these reasons and more that it is time we legalize single-game sports betting in Canada. If the economic arguments are not convincing enough for some of my esteemed colleagues, perhaps this public safety argument is.

The truth is that Canada is very far behind on this matter. We need to catch up to our international competitors, and do so quickly. We were behind even before the pandemic struck, then Parliament was prorogued and here we are today: even further behind. Every day that goes by is an additional day lost to our international competition. These delays cause Canadians to miss opportunities that they should be afforded.

From a tourism recovery perspective as we seek to navigate a path forward from COVID-19, Bill C-218 would deliver exactly what this industry needs as we prepare and plan for our recovery. As member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, I am proud to support Bill C-218 to legalize single-game sports betting, and I encourage my parliamentary colleagues of all party stripes to do the same.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 6:15 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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.