Friday January 31,2014 : CANADIAN SENATE ACCUSED OF STONEWALLING SPORTS BETTING BILL
Despite widespread support for single game wagering, no progress on a two-year-old bill.
Bill Rutsey, the president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, published an op-ed article in the Ottawa Citizen this week, criticising the Canadian Senate for sitting on a two-year-old bill that has wide support and would allow Canadians to place single game wagers.
Rutsey clearly chose the timing for his article carefully as Super Bowl fever sweeps North America, and Las Vegas gears up for one of its biggest weekends of the year.
Nevada, Rutsey points out, is the only legal sports wagering jurisdiction in North America, and expects more than 200,000 extra visitors for Super Bowl weekend. They will be wagering around $90 million on the game and spending another $150 million, and Canada could be profiting by taking a slice of that away through allowing Canadian punters to wager on single game events.
Rutsey says that the only thing standing in the way of such a scenario is a handful of unelected senators in Ottawa.
"While sports wagering has been legal in Canada for decades, we are unable to bet on the outcome of a single event," he complains.
"If you want to bet on the Super Bowl you must “parlay” your bet with two other events — say an NHL hockey game and Premier League Football match. Under this scenario, more often than not your bet will be a loser before the pre-game starts."
Rutsey takes his readers back two years when the House of Commons unanimously passed Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code by removing the prohibition against single-event wagering
Since then Bill C-290 has been stalled in the Senate despite testimony at hearings from law enforcement, provincial gaming operators, gaming regulators, international sports organisations and legal experts in support of the change, as well as problem-gambling experts who support passing the bill as being better than the status quo.
There is broad organisational support for change as well. Nine provincial governments have requested Bill C-290 be passed. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Labour Congress and cities such as Niagara Falls and Windsor, have all passed resolutions in support of Bill C-290.
Rutsey claims that Canadians are spending over $4 billion annually through illegal offshore online sports books that are easily available to anyone with Internet access, and up to a further $10 billion through illegal bookmaking.
He says that by way of comparison, “parlay” bets, the legal sports wagering offered through provincial lottery corporations, captures about $500 million annually – a pittance next to the $14 billion otherwise bet.
Using the high profile RCMP raids on the Hells Angels Super Bowl Party in Toronto last year as an example, Rutsey notes that the customers there were just ordinary people who wanted to bet on sports but had no acceptable legal alternative.
Although some senators have kept C-290 alive in the Senate despite attempts to kill it through inaction, a "small minority of senators" are accused by Rutsey of "styming" the will of Parliament by continually delaying or blocking progress on the measure.
"By delaying the bill they are ceding the billions of dollars Canadians are wagering on sports to the hands of illegal offshore operators and organized crime – more than $26 billion since the bill entered the Senate almost two years ago," Rutsey claims.
"This leaves communities like Windsor and Niagara Falls unable to capitalize on a great tourism opportunity and denies Canadians a legal, regulated opportunity to bet on the Super Bowl.
“Isn’t it time for all this to change?"