Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-221 in the name of the New Democratic member for Windsor West. I want to congratulate him on all of his efforts to try to get the bill passed.
First, the Conservative Party will allow a free vote of its members on the bill, and I would hope the government would reconsider this opportunity to let its members have a free vote on this as well.
I would like to lay out the reasons for my support for the bill.
First, in Canada, sports betting is only legal through parlay betting over a series of three games on what the outcome of those three games would be, which we have heard already tonight. It is not a great leap to shift from parlay betting to single sports betting.
Tourism in Canada has been on the decline. The legalization of single sports betting would give us the competitive edge that we need to bring some tourism back to Canada, especially along the border with the United States.
In my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, well over a decade ago there was a great debate that raged about allowing a casino to set up somewhere in the Thousand Islands region. After a great debate and a number of plebiscites in the municipalities, a casino was established on the boundary between the town of Gananoque and what is now the township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands.
At the time, many detractors were talking about the evils of gaming. However, at that particular casino, very little of the fears of the detractors have been realized. In fact, on the contrary, the casino has become a significant tourist anchor. Furthermore, it has contributed literally millions of dollars to the tax base of the municipalities, as well as direct payments to those municipalities, and it has helped boost other businesses in the region.
Therefore, with the new avenue of gaming, Canadian casinos would have a product that many of the those in the United States do not have. We have heard that it has been available for many years in Las Vegas. This would give us the upper hand on competing casinos right across the border and take back the traffic that Canadian casinos originally had.
Currently, as I said, this form of betting is only legal in one state, which is in the state of Nevada. Why should Nevada have a monopoly on this?
The legalization of single sports betting gives us the opportunity to attract more Americans to Canadian casinos, taking advantage of our proximity in comparison to the state of Nevada. It would not only give us the ability to compete with Nevada for its tourism and casino traffic, but it would put us in a strong position to grow both our industry and our economy.
Not only would the legislation before us be beneficial for the Canadian tourism industry, it would also be mutually beneficial for our economy.
We have recently seen in Nevada the mass tourism for the Super Bowl. They were not there for the Super Bowl game in Nevada; they were there to bet on that game. Nevada prepared for at least 200,000 extra visitors than it usually would have had. There was about $90 million that was spent betting on the game, and $150 million spent in Las Vegas on miscellaneous industries.
This one event generated mass amounts of revenue for communities. With our geographic close proximity to the United States, I have no doubt we would be able to reap those economic benefits.
Recently, I read a case study that was done by the Canadian Gaming Association on towns such as Niagara Falls, which would be heavily impacted by the proposed legislation of single sports betting. What the association found was that although single sports betting did produce revenue, the greatest increase in revenue was in the hospitality sector and entertainment industries due to the increased volume of tourists in the area.
Therefore, single sports betting would not just generate more financial flow within the casinos or betting pools, but it would have greater financial implications that could benefit the whole economy. Imagine the opportunities that could open up for Canadian cities such as Niagara Falls if the legislation is passed.
It is increasingly important that we work to better our economy in every possible way. Not only would single-event sports betting generate greater income in our tourism and gaming towns, it would also open up greater job opportunities for the people who live there.
As we are all aware, unemployment has risen this past year to about 7.3% in Canada. Creating more jobs in Canada would be very beneficial for all of us.
The Canadian gaming industry currently employs close to four million people, already having a significant impact on the economy. With the opening of single event betting, the increased traffic would allow for casinos to employ more staff. In Niagara Falls alone, it could create more than 200 jobs. That means 200 more people who would have security, and 200 more people who would not have to struggle to survive. Not only would 200 more people be employed, which in itself is already beneficial, it is 200 people in one area.
The availability of more jobs in every major town that would facilitate single event sports betting would give us the means necessary to strong arm the current high unemployment rate and substantially lower it. The reality of the situation is that while single game betting is illegal in Canada, it is still happening, as we have already heard this evening, through offshore gaming or through the black market.
Through offshore or illegal bookmaking operations, the single events sports underground market generates as much as $14 billion a year in Canada. Instead of this large market going off radar, we would make it both legal and regulated provincially. Passing the bill would mean that the provinces could tap into money that is currently being spent illegally, and use it provincially to support social programs as they see fit.
Niagara Falls is estimated to make a net profit of between $9 million and $12 million each year. Imagine what that money could do in a community such as Niagara Falls.
The bill is not a question of whether or not single sports betting will automatically become illegal. Instead, it will follow suit and give the provinces the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to legalize it. Due to the economic advantages of job employment and increased tourism revenue, it is necessary that the provinces have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether this is something they want to support.
The bill has passed the House before, until it was stuck in the Senate. Sports betting is already legal in Canada. It would be wise to further the scope of that legality. I would ask members to vote yes again, taking note of the vast economic growth both in the tourism or employment sectors that could occur in Canada through its passing.
I leave members with the words of the mayor of Niagara Falls, “Whatever your opinion is on [single sports betting], it's happening and it's happening online or in Las Vegas.”
Let us keep these billions of dollars in Canada by making it work legally here.