Pupatello Puts Canadian Sports Betting on the Ballot

Advanced polls ended on Sunday October 13, with Election Day set for October 21. Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello is on the ballot in Ontario and wants the people to know that a vote for her is a vote to legalize single-event sports betting.

Pupatello’s Path to the Election

Pupatello is an Ontario native now in her late 50s. Her ties to politics date back to the 1970s when she campaigned for a member of Parliament.

She began her career in the Legislative Assembly in 1995, a longtime member of the Ontario Liberal Party and a member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). Her husband, Jim Bennett, is a former leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party.

She served in numerous positions in the Ontario Provincial Government. Her cabinet posts have also included the Minister of Community and Social Services (2003-2006), Minister of Education (2006), Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues (2003-2007), Minister of Economic Development and Trade (2006-2008),Minister of International Trade and Investment (2008-2009) and Minister of Economic Development and Trade (2009-2011).

In mid-August 2019, Pupatello began campaigning for the Liberal nomination in Windsor West. She secured the nomination on September 4. Both of her competitors also pledged support for Pupatello.

Sports Betting Platform

Last week, Pupatello added a unique stance to her platform. She decided to come out in favor of single-event sports betting.

Pupatello made the announcement in front of Caesars Windsor. She spoke to the media about the previous failed attempts by lawmakers to legalize single-sports betting. She was in support of Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s attempt this year to amend the criminal code to decriminalize it.

Lawmakers have been trying to overturn the criminal ban since 2011, when the then-New Democratic Party MP Joe Comartin proposed it. His bill cleared the House of Commons, but failed to do the same in the Senate.

Interestingly, Pupatello’s opponent in this election, Brian Masse of the New Democratic Party, has supported single-event sports betting in the past. He proposed a bill to that effect in 2016, saying that legalizing it would secure Canadian jobs, bring in new revenue, and remove the stronghold on the industry held by organized crime and offshore companies.

Pupatello had much the same take on the issue. However, he framed it a bit differently.

CBC noted that her news conference focused on the jobs and revenue but also the urgency of keeping customers from flocking to American states. More of them are continuously legalizing sports betting, and Pupatello wants to keep customers on the northern side of the border.

“The Canadian Gaming Association estimates this would add up to 150 jobs in Windsor,” she said, “with another 100 in Niagara Falls.” She also cited research that showed the potential annual revenue for the new form of wagering as much as $1 billion.

Opponent Cites Trust Issues

One might think that there wouldn’t be much about which to disagree on this subject. But one would also be wrong.

Masse also held his own press conference with members of Unifor Local444. Masse said that he has been the one pushing for legalized single-sports betting for years.

According to Masse, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party have not done anything about it, despite promising a collaborative approach on the subject. He said that consistent lobbying from the union and work by Masse have still not led to a consensus.

His question, then, became one of trust. Former Unifor leader Ken Lewenza questioned Pupatello’s dedication to it could just be a smokescreen in the form of a campaign promise. “Can we trust them?” he asked about the Liberal Party. “I don’t need another rumor because we always thought we were this close only to leave parliament this far apart.”

Gaming Advocates Express Support

CBC quoted Canadian Gaming Association President Paul Burns expressing excitement and optimism about Pupatello’s stance. “We’re thrilled that it’s actually being talked about,” he said. “We hope more candidates and all the parties will start talking about it.”

Sports betting expert and Osgoode Hall Adjunct Professor of Gambling Law Harley Redlick also wrote a piece for Canada.com about Pupatello’s announcement.

“It’s about time!” Redlick began.

He went on to report that the original ban on single-sports betting was passed out of a fear of match-fixing, but that was more than a century ago. Now, the government has the ability to regulate, as lotteries regulate their games.

Redlick said that the underground sports betting market also generates about $40 billion annually.

Should the law change, he said border casinos will benefit right away and in major ways. He anticipates fans of border states in America crossing to casinos in Windsor and Niagara to place their bets.

As the threat of American sports betting looms, Redlick said the issue also has a new urgency. “The threat is literally at our borders. Move now or not only forgo the job opportunity but risk losing jobs.”



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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