Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-221 today, an act to amend the Criminal Code. This bill would modernize the Criminal Code by allowing provinces to properly regulate sports betting. If single event sports wagering were permitted, each province would therefore determine if and how it would be implemented.
The Canadian Criminal Code, which is enacted by the Parliament of Canada, sets out the parameters of legal gaming in Canada. However, since 1985, as a result of a federal-provincial agreement, the federal government has given up its right to conduct lottery schemes. Sports wagering is defined as lottery schemes in the Criminal Code and explicitly prohibits provinces from allowing wagering on any race or fight, or on a single sports event or athletic contest. This bill calls for the deletion of this section of the Criminal Code.
The bill would help modernize the Criminal Code to recognize the jurisdictional responsibility and reality of gaming throughout the country. If provinces were able to provide a legal, regulated sports wagering product, the economic impact would be significant, particularly for communities with casinos. A recent report by the Canadian Gaming Association on the impact of sports wagering on Ontario border casinos highlighted the benefits of offering a legal, regulated sports wagering product in the Ontario border casinos of Windsor and Niagara Falls.
Another thing that Bill C-221 would allow us to do would be to reduce the influence of organized crime. Illegal sports wagering includes both illegal bookmakers and illegal Internet betting companies operating within North America. While the exact size of the illegal bookmaking market is not certain, published reports by government and law enforcement officials suggest it is substantial. For example, based on a review of the annual reports of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, bookmaking exists in every region of Canada. According to the reports, gaming profits provide revenue to organized crime groups to fund their illegal and legal activities.
Once more, while the size of the illegal bookmaking market in Canada is unknown, it is thought to be significant. It has been estimated that Canadians illegally wager between $14 billion and $15 billion annually on single sporting events. Bill C-221 would allow the provinces to police this unregulated market, and in so doing return the economic benefits to our communities and reduce the influence of organized crime. It would afford the opportunity for bettors using illegal systems to use the safety, security, and surety of the government regulated betting regime.
I would like to mention that much support has been expressed for Bill C-221. Many validators, such as municipalities, associations, and corporations, have already supported this bill. Among those, there is the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, the municipality of Windsor, the Attorneys General of Ontario and British Columbia, and the Canadian Gaming Association.