Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)

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

Sponsor

Kevin Waugh  Conservative

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

Status

In committee (House), as of Feb. 17, 2021

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

Summary

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

This enactment 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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

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.
See context

Liberal

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

Conservative

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 ActRoutine Proceedings

February 25th, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise in the House this morning to introduce the safe and regulated sports betting act.

I have gotten great support from across the House. I would like to thank the member for Windsor West in particular for his assistance with this legislation and for the seconding of the bill here this morning.

There are others in our caucus who have given great support, such as the members for Essex, Niagara Falls and Calgary Shepard, and I would like to thank them.

This is a historic moment. This is the third time this bill has come to the House. As members know, it passed in 2015 but got stopped in the Senate. Last time, in the 42nd Parliament, it did not make it out. This is third time lucky, as we will join forces with everyone in the House to see if we can move this bill forward.

Let me be clear that single-event sport wagering already exists in this country, and if members do not think so, they are behind the curtains. The Canadian single-event sport wagering industry is worth over $14 billion, but most of it, 95% of it, exists underground on the black market or through offshore websites. These are unregulated sport-wagering sites. None of that activity is subject to government regulations or taxes; none of it is creating jobs in this country or economic opportunities; and none of it is contributing to consumer protection, education, harm reduction initiatives or support services, which are badly needed in this country.

This legislation would amend the Criminal Code to repeal the federal ban on single-event sport betting and allow the provinces to implement a safe and regulated betting environment within the provincial wagering and lottery systems. By passing this bill, we can put a stop to the billions of dollars going to organized crime and put that money back into our communities.

To wrap up, it has all changed since 2018. The United States has allowed it. Sport leagues, like the NHL and NBA, are in favour of sports betting being regulated. It is time this country follows forward. I will have more to say on this bill, but it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House this morning and introduce it.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)