Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on behalf of the bill and convince members of its recognized merits. I do believe it is very important at this time for me to also acknowledge my predecessor in Windsor—Tecumseh, Joe Comartin, who provided me with a lot of history that I think will help members put it in perspective as well.
This is a concise bill that is simply the repeal of one very brief section of the Criminal Code. In effect, it would allow for sports betting on single sporting events in this country, in provinces that choose to allow it.
There are two reasons for my pushing for this change and for the widespread support that this has garnered. One is the economic development tool, as has been mentioned. It would provide communities with revenue, particularly those communities with existing casinos or race tracks and other gaming operations.
We have heard from some provinces, as they are the ones responsible for deploying this tool, that they would be placing the operations in those centres, some more broadly and others on a more limited scale.
We had a study done by the Canadian Gaming Association two summers ago, and it showed, for instance, that it would secure 150 to 200 new jobs in my region of Windsor, which has a very substantial commercial casino, Caesars Windsor. The same is true for the casino in Niagara. I mention these two casinos because they are immediately adjacent to the American border and a number of bets would be placed by our American neighbours, because this practice is illegal in the United States, with the exception of Nevada. I will get to that later.
It would be a good economic tool that would draw tourism and gaming dollars from the United States and potentially from other parts of the world, depending on how it were deployed.
The other major reason that was the impetus for this initiative is that this type of gaming is going on now, but it is almost exclusively offshore, and in Canada it is completely controlled by and is a major revenue source for organized crime.
We have estimates of billions of dollars being gamed in Canada and tens of billions of dollars in the United States because it is illegal there. This legislation would strike a blow against organized crime by taking revenue away from it.
One of the major tools the government can deploy to fight organized crime is to take away financial incentives. This legislation would help us do that. It is a very important bill from this perspective. That industry is very big and it is entirely controlled by organized crime at the present time, both here and in the United States, because it is generally illegal in the United States to bet on one sporting event.
The estimate in the United States is that $30 billion a year is bet on that, all going into the pockets of organized crime and some of it offshore. It is estimated that as much as $2 billion is spent in Canada annually.
With all of that money going out of the country to organized crime syndicates in the United States and the Caribbean, we can see just from those figures that it is important that we move on this.
The other thing is that there is a national gaming association in Canada, and a couple of years ago it completed a study that showed the employment that would be created by making this into a legal business. For instance, in Windsor, there would be another 150 jobs directly secured for current employment at the casino in Windsor.
In the riding of the Minister of Justice there is a casino, and a similar number of jobs would either be saved or added and thus secured in this job creation.
The stakeholder support for this legislation is broad in both the public sector and the private sector. The legislation has support from provincial and municipal governments across Canada, as well as unanimous support from the chamber of commerce community and Canadian labour councils.
In addition, businesses and organizations operating in the tourism sector have expressed support, as well as firms in the so-called grey market, which is the legitimate multinational sport betting operations catering to Canadian clients on the Internet, who want to operate in a clearly defined and regulated environment.
I would also note, as my colleague from Windsor West has discussed, that this legislation has support from the law enforcement community. It is generally recognized as a safe, legal, and regulated environment around this activity that will detrimentally impact organized crime by significantly reducing its revenues from illegal wagering by providing customers with a legal option.
The previous legislation was originally opposed by all four major sports organizations in North America, the NBA, NHL, NFL, the MLB. However, since 2011, the NBA has completely changed its position on single-event sports wagering and the NHL is increasingly becoming involved in gambling after announcing a formal partnership with a major online fantasy sports wagering operation, DraftKings. In short, the leagues are coming to the realization that sports wagering can be an asset to their business and they are beginning to alter their position.
What is the best thing about the bill? It costs the government nothing and it generates considerable revenue for the province, which regulates the practice and puts funding in the coffers for adequate treatment. From this perspective, it is a safe bet indeed.
It is important to set the bill within a historical context, and I take this history from the esteemed member who held my riding, Joe Comartin, prior to the 2015 election.
If we go back and study this closely, the laws on gaming in our country go back to the 1600s in England. I believe Charles I was King at the time. It was a period of time when he was very worried about the military gambling excessively. Laws were passed in Westminster to prohibit all gambling in the country.
Over the centuries, we have eroded that position. In fact, to follow the history in my riding, my predecessor, who is the immediate predecessor of Joe Comartin, the late Shaughnessy Cohen, moved a similar amendment to the Criminal Code that allowed for betting at roulette tables, which was prohibited at the time. It allowed for roulette tables to come into casinos across the country.
Following in that tradition, this is one of those periods of time when we should have our criminal law catch up to the reality of what is happening in our society.
In 1985, the federal government effectively gave up the administration of gaming operations to the provinces. It was one of those periods of time when there were some trade-offs going on with regard to revenue sources. This was a mechanism for the federal government to create new revenue sources for the provinces.
Since that time, a number of provinces have moved into gaming in a variety of ways: lotteries, casinos, additional betting being allowed at racetracks, and the list goes on.
Allow me to recap the reasons for supporting the bill. It would be a blow against organized crime. It would be a potential creator of good jobs for our economy. It would move additional revenue into the hands of the provinces that chose to allow single-event sports betting now that it would no longer a criminal act. It is a very simple amendment that does not require a great deal of effort to understand. I would encourage all members of the House to reconsider and support the bill.