Madam Speaker, I look forward to the return of the Nordiques, especially since, in my opinion, Alain Côté's goal was legal.
Having said that, such short, clear and succinct bills rarely generate that much interest and debate. Bill C-218 consists of three clauses. The first tells us its title, the safe and regulated sports betting act. The third and final clause states that this act comes into force on a date to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. All the substance of the bill is found in the second clause, which states that paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code is to be repealed. It is pretty straightforward. It is simple, but Bill C-218 is like a ghost haunting the halls of Parliament.
It started in 2011. At the time, so during the 40th Parliament, we had Bill C-627. The bill that had been introduced had the same objectives, but it was never debated.
There was a second attempt during the 41st Parliament, in 2013. That was Bill C-290, but it died in the Senate in October 2014.
During the 42nd Parliament, in other words, the last session of Parliament, there was Bill C-221, but it did not pass second reading on September 21, 2016.
Today, under the 43rd Parliament, we are back with Bill C-218. Hopefully, we can finally make an informed and effective decision on this bill.
Unsurprisingly, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the bill. It will do so because we have to take reality into account. The bill is in line with the legislative movement in the world. Our American neighbours already have laws allowing sports betting on a single sport. The attempt to end this practice was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2018, with the Murphy v. NCAA decision. That court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Congress to ban sports betting. Americans can therefore do this.
It is 2020 and people in France and England can place bets online. Earlier, in the lobby, I spoke to someone who made bets on a site based in Gibraltar, so we no longer need to meet someone in our city to bet. Now, it can be done everywhere in the world, and it is even easier in the United States.
Our neighbours to the south are competing unfairly Quebec and Canada in the gaming industry. Quebec has always been somewhat concerned about the pathological aspect of gambling and the use of that money. My Conservative colleague spoke about $14 billion. In Quebec, we are talking about $27 million a year, which is no small amount. What is more, we have always felt that this money should not go into the pockets of organized crime but should instead be replenishing the government coffers.
Quebec therefore set up an institution called Loto-Québec, which manages gaming in Quebec. However, the gaming industry in New York state and the entire online gaming industry are currently competing unfairly with Loto-Québec. It is time for that to stop.
Bill C-218 seeks to regulate gaming and make it safer for the people who engage in it. My intention is not to say that betting is a virtue, but it does exist. It always has and it always will. Our job as legislators is to regulate it as best we can.
I will now go back to what I was saying at the beginning of my speech. The title of Bill C-218 is as follows: safe and regulated sports betting act. In my opinion, we must ensure that this industry is regulated so we can better protect the players. It is a major industry around the world.
We want to avoid unfair competition, regulate gaming more effectively and be part of the global movement.
There was a situation in Quebec less than a year ago, in December 2019, involving an 18-year old man from Laval who racked up an online gambling debt of $80,000. When online gambling debts are controlled by the mob, the interest rate ranges from 3% to 5% a week and the debt increases exponentially. That is a scourge that we need to tackle.
This young many obviously did not have the means to pay that kind of money and ended up committing suicide in his home. He ended his life because he was unable to manage his gambling debt and he feared the worst for the safety of his family and the people around him. The website in question was tied to the Montreal Mafia.
We do not want that. Our responsibility as legislators is to prevent situations like that from happening again. The National Assembly of Quebec decided to tackle this problem as best it could. In 2016, it passed Bill 74 to regulate gambling in Quebec. However, the Superior Court of Quebec deemed the bill to be illegal because it did not fall within Quebec's jurisdiction. According the court, Quebec did not have the authority to prohibit gambling.
Quebec's hands are therefore tied. There is a pathological addiction to gambling among people who play. We want to control this problem, and we have some expertise through casinos and commercial lotteries. However, we need the additional tool of Bill C-218 to prevent situations as sad as the one of this 18-year-old young man.
In Quebec, we are talking about $27 million, but my colleague was talking about $14 billion. No matter how many millions or billions of dollars we leave to organized crime, I think it is a disgrace and that we owe it to ourselves to take back this jurisdiction and ensure that people play safely within a well-regulated framework.
Some parliamentarians opposed to the bill have concerns about cheating. I would just like to point out that section 209 of the Criminal Code already prohibits cheating at play. This risk already exists, and will always exist, even after Bill C-218 is passed, and so I do not think this is a problem that should concern us.
We must instead ensure that people who gamble do so within a safe and regulated framework and that the profits from gambling do not end up in organized crime, but remain in government coffers to benefit the citizens of Quebec and Canada.