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.