Thank you very much, Madam Chair and all members of the justice committee, for inviting me here today to discuss Bill C-218, the safe and regulated sports betting act.
This important piece of legislation seeks to make a rather simple change to the Criminal Code to remove the long-standing restriction against betting on single-sport events, fights and races.
By the way, I was very happy to see the broad support this legislation received in the House of Commons last week and the positive remarks made by all colleagues from all parties.
Single-event sports betting already takes place in this country, and it is a massive industry. According to some estimates, the single-event sports betting industry is worth $14 billion per year. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it is banned under the Criminal Code, this betting all takes place through offshore betting websites and black market bookmakers, most of whom have ties to criminal organizations like the Hells Angels.
This, in and of itself, spawns a variety of problems. First of all, the fact that single-event betting remains prohibited means that the provinces, which are typically responsible for management of lottery and betting systems, are totally unable to regulate this industry. As such, none of these websites or bookmakers are subject to any regulation or taxes.
Not being subject to regulation or government oversight, these websites have no consumer protection requirements, aren't required to maintain or support problem gambling programs, and don't reinvest or spur any further economic activity in the communities that they generate their profits from. This means that all of the profits from such wagers go straight into the pockets of foreign website operators and criminals. In the case of criminal organizations like the Hells Angels, which operate the black market betting rings and websites across this country, the money generated goes on to fund other forms of criminality, providing increased risk to the safety of our communities.
While parlay betting, which requires bettors to select the winners of multiple games correctly, is legal and already exists as a product available in Canada, parlay-betting products like Pro-Line and Sport Select generate only a small fraction of the sport betting in this country, approximately $500 million per year. These products are naturally less attractive to bettors, as the odds of succeeding in their wagers are greatly reduced, so they seek avenues to bet on single events and go toward avenues that most bettors don't realize are actually restricted in this country.
By removing these restrictions in the Criminal Code and putting single-event betting into the hands of the provincial governments, the provinces will be able to offer the products that bettors actually want to bet on and take betting out of the hands, then, of this black market. Organizations such as the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, Lotto-Quebec, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and others that the governments might entrust with these products have experience in these industries and are highly regulated to ensure that consumers are well protected.
It also means that the billions of dollars that currently go to offshore sites and criminal organizations are actually going back into our communities, creating jobs and supporting community programs.
Many provincial governments and their regulators have expressed their support for this proposal, as have amateur sport organizations like Canada Soccer; professional sport leagues, including the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer; and community organizations, plus municipal governments.
In closing, Madam Chair, the legalization of single-event sport betting provides a much-needed opportunity to tackle illegal gambling in this country and create new opportunities for economic development and new avenues for a variety of sectors, especially given the difficult times that we find ourselves in.
Bill C-218 has widespread support, both in the House and across this country.
I trust that in the name of good policy we can work together to get this legislation through this committee and to the rest of the legislative process.
Again, thank you, Madam Chair, and all members of the committee, for your time here today. I'm more than happy to answer some questions.