Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking in favour of the private member's bill of the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), as amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Bill C-290 itself is very brief, being only two clauses long. Clause 1 of the bill would repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code. Clause 2, which is the standing committee's only amendment, is a coming into force clause that would see the bill come into force on a date to be fixed by order in council.
The repeal of paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code would have the effect of permitting provincial governments to conduct and manage lottery schemes that involve bets made on a race, fight, single sports event or athletic contest.
Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether to offer single sports event betting and, if so, whether to operate the betting by telephone, Internet and/or land-based locations. Such provincial-territorial decision-making is precisely what now exists in section 207 of the Criminal Code with respect to other forms of lottery schemes, such as video lottery terminals and slot machines.
For example, under the current lottery scheme provision of the Criminal Code, only a provincial or territorial government may conduct a lottery scheme that is operated on or through a computer, slot machine or video device. A province or territory may not licence others to do so. Some provinces currently place video lottery terminals and slot machines in a land-based location such as a casino or a race track or another location. Similarly, under Bill C-290, a province or territory could place a single sports event betting operation in a casino, race track or any other location it might choose.
Furthermore, under section 207 of the Criminal Code, a province or territory may also conduct a lottery scheme in co-operation with another province. We know that the provinces and territories, using this authorization, have worked together to offer such national ticket lottery schemes, such as Lotto 6/49. Similar inter-jurisdictional co-operation would be possible under the amendment proposed in Bill C-290 for single event sports betting. A province or territory could choose to work co-operatively with another province or territory as it sees fit.
As I have previously indicated, it is important to note that Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether or not to offer single sports event betting, and if so whether to operate the betting by telephone, by Internet, and/or at land-based locations.
Conversely, it would be up to the provinces and territories to ensure that they consulted with sport organizations to ensure the integrity of the games on which single sports betting were offered, and it would also be up to the provinces and territories to consult with problem gambling service providers to ensure that single sports event bettors gambled responsibly.
On the issue of problem gambling, I would note that provinces in Canada have already dedicated major funding for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. In this regard, the provinces are far ahead of their counterparts in the United States and, possibly, the world. Quite rightly, Canadian provinces have addressed problem gambling because they hold the constitutional legislative authority for matters relating to health, including problem gambling.
Provinces and territories have had many years experience in conducting a broad range of lottery schemes. It makes sense that the range of lottery schemes that they are authorized to conduct be expanded to include single sports event betting.
It would also make a lot of sense to keep Canadian gambling dollars within a province or territory rather than sending that money to illegal bookmakers in Canada, or to offshore Internet betting sites that poach Canadian bettors, regardless of whether those offshore sites are legal or illegal in another country. Bill C-290 would be a step in that direction.
I support private member's Bill C-290 and will be voting in favour of it. Provinces and territories certainly have the experience to offer this form of betting, it that is what their electorate wants. On the other hand, if a province or territory chooses not to go in that direction, that would be its local decision.
I see this private member's bill as responding to a growing demand and as modernizing the Criminal Code's lottery scheme provision to reflect our circumstances in the 21st century. That is the direction we want to take.