(Ottawa) – Ontario MP Brian Masse of Windsor Ontario and Conservative MP Kevin Waugh of Grasswood Saskatchewan have both introduced private member’s bills asking that Subsection 207 (4) of the Criminal Code of Canada be amended to allow for single-game betting in this country.

The first reading was cancelled due to the proroguing of Parliament but MP Waugh’s bill, named A Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, was read November 3rd.

This legislation is supported by the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and the Bloc and a member from each party spoke in favour of the Act. Support is also in place from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and sports commissioners of every sports league from the NHL to the NBA to the Canadian Football League and the Major Leagues Baseball and Soccer as well as Rogers Sports and Media and the President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA).

Sports betting is legal in Canada. Canadians are allowed to practice parlay betting which is the selection of 3 and up teams on a card, for example, and the payout will be high if someone gets all the picks right. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG) Proline is an example of parlay betting.

MP Masse spoke of the proposed legislation saying, “The United States and other countries have moved to a regulated market. The result is that Canada has become a bastion for organized crime activity.” He spoke of the money that different provinces are spending to deal with organized crime that often involves the Hell’s Angels. “Every province and territory in this country is losing out when offshore game sites, along with criminal activity, have an underground activity. It is $14 Billion today.”

MP Masse went on to say, “In Ontario it is legal to bet on three games, but not one or two. The system of three, called a parlay bet, works against individual citizens because it is rigged.” He also spoke of the fact that single-game betting is legal in the United States so Canada has an unfair advantage when it comes to our neighbours like the States of Michigan and New York. Those States use revenue from single-game sports betting for firefighters who have cancer or other job-related illnesses and also for education. If this Act passes and regulations are set up, each province and territory could use the revenue for their own purpose and could fund education, health and so on.

MP Sebastien Lemire, a Bloc member for Abitibi-Temiscaminque, rose to speak on this bill and spoke in favour. “We indeed need some regulation”, he said. “The crux of the matter is that we must ensure that people do not end up alone at home making bets.”

Bloc Party MP Rheal Fortin for Riviere-Du-Nord, Quebec expressed his dismay at the exorbitant amount of money Quebec is losing because illegal gambling is so prevalent. “Bloc Quebecois support the bill,” he said. He went on to say that Quebec loses $27 Million a year in lost revenue because people are playing in underground forums. He explained that Loto-Quebec was set up in his province to manage gaming, but that gaming in New York and online gaming is competing unfairly with that. He also noted that there have been many attempts to pass such legislation as MP Waugh’s since 2011.

MP Liberal Adam Vaughan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families spoke against this bill and MP’s Waugh and Masse came back hard on his words.

“This member of the Liberal Party,” MP Waugh said, “has stated tonight that he is comfortable with Canada losing $14 billion to criminal activity in this country. The member has also confirmed that he does not care about problem gamblers because those involved in criminal activity certainly do not care about that. He is absolutely intent on leaving $14 billion, which could be put into the Canadian economy for health, education and gambling addiction. That is despicable to me.

MP Masse also weighed in, saying, “Canada has become a bastion for organized crime activity. Canada has become a laggard in regulation. How complex and organized do we have to be, and how much must we spend in taxpayer dollars to fight the illegal market the Parliamentary Secretary is so comfortable with? We are going to have to pay more money to the RCMP and to the provincial and municipal police to fight this. That is what has taken place. It’s time to change, time to come of age and time for us to grow up.”

MP Waugh began his support of single-event sports betting by saying, “The gaming industry in Canada is a multi-billion dollar industry. Casinos, racetracks and other gaming facilities operating across the country directly employ tens of thousands of people. The gaming industry pays $6.7 billion in salaries per year and generates over $9 billion in revenue for governments and much-needed charities every single year. However, none of that includes the single-event sport betting industry. Offshore websites like Bodog and bet365 takes in billions of dollars a year, and black market betting rings are taking in billions more. We need regulation. The provinces want to regulate it and they have the expertise on regulating gambling and betting. They have been doing it for 30-plus years.”

MP Waugh also spoke of problem gambling, saying, “The Hells Angels do not have a program for problem gambling.” Canadians will also remember that members of that nefarious club were arrested recently in a great many Ontario cities including Toronto, Welland, London and Thornbury. Hells Angels members were charged with 228 offences last year with $28 million in assets seized. This July a huge, brutal $36 million illegal gambling operation was shut down with 30 charged, and ion Markham, $10 million in property and currency was seized from an illegal casino.

MP Waugh told the members of the support that the bill received from MP Travis Toews, the Minister of Finance who cited the protection of consumers and the assistance for those who need it, if legalizing single-event wagering takes place.

“It would also give governments,” MP Waugh stated, “much-needed new sources of revenue that they could use to fund social programs, such as mental health programs, mental health research and addiction treatment, and broader sectors such as education and health care.”

The bill has now gone to committee for discussion and hopefully will go back for a third reading with debate and a vote and then on the Senate for final approval.

Photo: Las Vegas sportsbook by Baishampayan Ghose/Wikimedia Commons

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