Madam Speaker, it is also an honour for me to speak to this bill. I think it is important to pass it at second reading and send it to committee. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the member from Saskatoon—Grasswood for introducing this bill and the member for Windsor West, who introduced it in a previous Parliament.
The objective of this bill is rather simple. Let us not overly complicate things. I did not hear many people speak who seem to oppose the bill. It would make a fairly simple change that would legalize single-event sports betting. It is currently possible to place a bet, but it has to be on more than one event. Anyone who wants to bet on a sports event can go to the Loto-Québec website, but they have to bet on a second event.
Does the law or the current situation prevent sports betting? The answer is no. Rather, it prevents betting on a single event. Obviously, when the government leaves an area of activity open, someone else will step in to fill the gap. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so, organized crime gets involved. I will talk a little about that later.
I would also like to point out that this is the fourth time this bill has come before the House. The time has come to pass it and move on to another issue. That it has been introduced four times speaks to its relevance.
It is also important to note that the context has changed since the last time. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling overrode the federal government's power to prohibit states from allowing lotteries. This means the American federal government can no longer prohibit states from organizing single wager lotteries. This has implications for us. We can pretend that we are pure and do not do that, but it has repercussions because the United States is our close neighbour.
In fact, the bill introduced by our colleague from Windsor West was likely motivated by geography, for the industry in his part of the country. This is true everywhere. It is also true for Quebec. Plattsburgh is less than 90 minutes from Montreal. Gambling exists, and it is a competitive industry. If it is not done in American casinos, it will be done illegally somewhere else.
The Bloc Québécois supports this bill for four main reasons. It will provide a new revenue stream for Loto-Québec. It is as simple as that. There is revenue now, but it is going into the wrong pockets. This bill would allow Loto-Québec to collect that money. It will also prevent unfair competition from American casinos, which I mentioned earlier. In addition, the bill will provide new opportunities for gamblers in Quebec and Canada and will allow for better regulation.
It is right there in the name of the bill: the safe and regulated sports betting act. That is the objective. We are not trying to encourage people to gamble more. The idea is to provide a framework, come up with regulations and protect people. This bill is consistent with the movement towards legalizing gambling in North America. There are now 17 states, including New York. that have legalized it. We now have the choice to either hop on board or let this opportunity pass us by.
I should point out that the federal ruling in the U.S. was a game changer. Some people had objections that may have once been legitimate, but this ruling refuted most of those arguments.
Every time I rise to speak here, I cannot help but draw parallels to the political situation in Quebec. It is interesting to see that in the United States, it is the opposite situation from Canada. Here in Canada, section 91 says that federal laws take precedence over provincial and territorial ones, while in the United States, that ruling says the complete opposite. It is interesting. We might want to emulate that.
I mentioned that the purpose of the legislation is essentially to protect people. Earlier, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue mentioned the specific case of an 18-year-old young man who committed suicide after getting into debt. That is one example.
How many families have been torn apart by one member's pathological gambling? How many material possessions have been lost to dishonest people? The fact that there are debt collectors who buy up debt is not good news. Government regulation could address that.
There is another reason to pass this bill. In Quebec, we have already tried to do something. It is not like we have been sitting idle. In 2016, the Government of Quebec tried to ban access to U.S. gambling sites. The Quebec Superior Court ruled that Quebec did not have the authority to do that. We cannot do it, and since the federal government is not doing it either, then the next logical step is to confront organized crime. When we talk about organized crime, we are talking about the mafia.
There is one figure that struck me, and that is that, in 2004-05, Operation Colisée estimated that organized crime in Montreal made $27 billion in a single year from this type of betting.
What do members of organized crime do with that money, hon. members? They do not buy houses. They fund other activities. They extend their reach. We need to cut them off at the knees. The lives of everyone around these people are at risk.
Let us talk about cheating. One of the main arguments against this bill is that, if people are betting on a single event, it will be much easier to rig the event in question, particularly if it involves a single athlete. It could be very tempting to try to bribe him or her.
There is nothing stopping us from exerting more control over that aspect, since we do not have any control over the outcome of these events as it is. Nothing is stopping us from increasing penalties for that because, in any case, we have no control over the outcome of most of the big sports events that people are going to bet on. Many of these events take place in Quebec and Canada, but also in the United States. I therefore think that argument is not valid.
According to the president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, legalizing and regulating these revenues take them away from organized crime and direct them to the government, which will be able to legally use this money to help people.
I should also mention that people will choose the legal alternative if one exists. In general, when people have a legal alternative, no matter what they may think of it, they will take it. Users will migrate en masse from illegal sites to legal sites, and this will give local governments money to intervene and prevent the risk and compulsive gambling in the same way as other programs mentioned earlier, such as those run by Loto-Québec. Of course, it is not a perfect system. We often wonder whether the government should really be encouraging gambling. However, at least the government has the means to help those with problems and to manage this in a fair manner.
Earlier, I mentioned that this is the fourth time that this bill has been introduced in the House. The first time, it was not debated. The second time, it passed unanimously, but then was blocked by the Senate. I hope that, if it is passed this time, it will not be blocked by the unelected Senate. It is an important issue.
Finally, the last time this bill was introduced, it was rejected by the Liberal government, which had a majority at the time. Their first argument against it was rigging, which I just refuted, and the second was that the bill promoted pathological gambling. I have addressed that as well. The government is better equipped than anyone to help victims of these systems.
Quebec and Canada have made a societal choice to legalize gambling in order to better regulate it. We prefer sound public policy over puritanism. I believe this is the path we should follow.
The only group that will benefit from the status quo if we do not pass the bill is organized crime. That is why we must pass the bill.