House of Commons to Debate Sports Betting This Week

The support for single-event sports betting continues to rise throughout Canada. Regulators like the BCLC and AGLC publicly support the measure before Parliament, and members of the House of Commons push C-218 toward a vote.

However, the opposition to and concerns about the bill are strong enough to stop a fast-track process through the Parliamentary process. After another reading in the House of Commons on February 5, members will again bring sports betting to the floor this week for more debate.

Two Bills Available

The original sports betting bill that remains in play is Private Members Bill C-218. MP Kevin Waugh of Saskatoon-Grasswood originally introduced the legislation in February 2020. It had its first reading in the House of Commons but fell by the wayside as the coronavirus pandemic dominated discussions from March 2020 forward.

Members pushed C-218 to stay in public view, though, as it was the most comprehensive bill on the topic. They reinstated it from the first to second session of the 43rd Parliament in September 2020. After a November reading, they pushed it through to a second reading in the House of Commons earlier this month.

C-13 was the latest bill to legalize single-event sports betting. The most notable thing about it was its introduction in 2020 by Minister of Justice David Lametti. All of the support from regulators and organizations, along with the need for new revenue streams made apparent by the pandemic, changed Lametti’s views on the subject.

However, Lametti’s bill sat stagnant since its introduction and first reading in the House of Commons in late November 2020.

C-218 seems to be the popular and most likely option of the two bills.

February 5 Actions of Support

The official second reading of C-218 happened on 3 November, and that consideration didn’t resume until February 5 in the House of Commons. The most recent conversation included more than double the members present in the previous one.

Waugh noted the support from members of various parties for his bill – Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc. He noted his appreciation for Lametti and his bill, which Waugh favors. However, the cancellations of two debate sessions on C-13 concerned Waugh. If the government won’t address C-13, the Liberals can push C-218 during Private Members’ Business.

“Let us pass the private member’s bill (C-218) that will come forward in the next two weeks, and then we can have the discussion at the Justice Committee,” Waugh said.

There were numerous other members who spoke in support of the bill:

  • Irek Kusmierczyk, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion (Windsor-Tecumseh)
  • Sebastien Lemire (Abitibi-Temiscamingue, BQ)
  • Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan-Malahat-Landford, NDP)
  • Michael Kram (Regina-Wascana, CPC)
  • Yves Perron (Berthier-Maskinonge, BQ)

Concerns Expressed on February 5

Anita Vandenbeld, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, spoke with concern about the bill. She focused on one particular issue, which was the negative effects that single-event sports betting may have on pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in Canada.

Specifically, Vandenbeld highlighted the potential harm on the pari-mutuel industry and the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA). To repeal the paragraph of the Criminal Code that would legalize single-event sports betting would also remove a prohibition on provinces from regulating new forms of betting on horse racing. In addition, it could be used to remove most of the funding for CPMA, which would devastate the agency and the horse racing industry.

Other issues concerning to Vandenbeld included mental health and gambling addiction, potential for increased organized crime activities, and impact on indigenous peoples and communities.

“We find ourselves at a moment in time when a new form of gaming is being proposed as an exception to the blanket prohibition on gaming and betting,” Vandenbeld said. “As always Parliament must carefully examine the potential repercussions on Canadians and industry stakeholders. We need to determine if it makes sense for Parliament to keep using its jurisdiction over criminal law to prohibit this activity.”

Waugh addressed her concern in his follow-up comment. He said that he and other supporters are open to amendments. They understand that the horse racing industry issues are important and should be addressed.

The final motion on the bill deferred a recorded division until February 17.

Regulator Support Amasses

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) issued a statement on February 1 to acknowledge its public backing of C-13. The short-term benefit would be to offer new betting opportunities on the PlayNow.com platform. Currently, offshore sites garner approximately two-thirds of that sports betting market.

In addition, land-based casinos and community gaming centres will benefit as they introduce licensed sportsbooks. The BCLC could also expand wagering options to hospitality and retail locations that now sell lottery products.

In all, the BCLC expects it could generate an additional $125M to $175M in revenue to support healthcare, education, and community programs.

BCLC Director of eGaming Stewart Groumoutis noted, “Our players have wanted single-event sports betting for a long time. … We’re encouraging the federal government to modernize laws.”

And on February 10, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) agency added its voice to the mix in support of both bills, noting that both will present more wagering opportunities for Albertans and for the growth of PlayAlberta.ca. That would then translate into revenue for Alberta.

As in BC, Alberta would be able to expand betting outlets to include live gambling establishments. Further, the AGLC notes that players would have greater odds of winning bets by picking a game outcome, point spread, and other aspects of sporting contests.

AGLC estimated that players gamble approximately $3B in sports bets on offshore websites.

According to AGLC CEO Kandice Machado, “AGLC has supported modernized gambling laws for a number of years, including allowing for single-event sports wagering. This would present the ability to give legal age Albertans new and unique options on their favourite sporting events.”

 

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen

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