Push Planned for New Canada Sports Betting Bill

A group of Canada’s legislators, public officials and gaming-world executives are meeting today in Canada’s capital of Ottawa to formulate strategies in support of the newest sports betting bill to be considered in Canada.

canada-flagHouse of Commons Bill C-221, titled the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, will receive its mandatory second reading before the full Parliament tomorrow, before moving on to a probable series of hearings and votes.  Bill C-221 was introduced early this year by MP (Member of Parliament) Brian Masse, as a replacement measure for the failed C-290 measure that would have accomplished the same goal of allowing single-event sports betting, but died without a vote after languishing for years in Canada’s Senate.

Masse, a New Democratic Party member, dropped his C-221 measure shortly after being selected very high in Canada’s parliamentary lottery, an odd system that allows for a limited number of members’ “private” bills to be submitted for consideration.  Masse had promised to reintroduce a new version of C-290 if given the chance, and quickly made good on the promise, pleasing a wide swath of the Canadian public who have expressed support for legalized single-event sports betting in Canada.

Bill C-211, like the broadly supported but failed C-290 measure before it, would achieve its goal by repealing the tiny section of Canada’s gambling codes that currently bans single-event sports wagering.  The elimination of the current national-level prohibition would move responsibility for approving or continuing to ban single-event sports betting to each of Canada’s individual provinces.

Today’s meeting in Ottawa is part of that expression of support in advance of Tuesday’s second reading for the new C-221.  On hand to strategize are several parties, including the the Windsor-Essex (Ontario) Regional Chamber of Commerce (WERCC), MP Brian Masse and other NDP officials, plus representatives of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Gaming Association and other industry stakeholders and gambling firms, including Caesars Entertainment.

Said Matt Marchand, WERCC President & CEO, “It is important to get Caesars Windsor first into the marketplace. Once people experience the wonderful facilities, they’ll certainly come back, which is great for tourism and the local economy in Windsor-Essex. It’s reasonable to assume that the same positive economic impacts would be replicated in gaming facilities across Canada should provinces choose to develop products to tap into this lucrative market.  Bill C-221 has the potential to create up to 100 direct jobs at Caesars Windsor, and more importantly, will be able to help secure the existing jobs at Caesars.”

Those 100 jobs are just a tiny slice of the employment boost expected if C-221 passes, which would formally bring into Canada’s business economy the billions of dollars that are wagered by Canadians on unlicensed offshore sites.  The true economic impact is likely measure in the thousands or tens of thousands of jobs and commensurate taxable revenue.

What remains to be seen is if Masse’s C-221 bill will be able to translate its widespread popular support into a real change in Canada’s sports betting laws.  C-221 faces the same primary obstacle as what caused C-290’s demise: An antiquated procedural process allowing Canada’s Senate to continue an odd tradition of not bothering to consider “private” bills such as Masse’s C-221 or the old C-290 measure sponsored by NDP member Joe Comartin.  Comartin’s bill flew through the lower House of Commons with ease, but never even received a vote in its years of inaction before the Senate.

Canada’s Senate remains disproportionately skewed with members of the Conservative Party, which has traditional been anti-gambling as well.  That distribution mirrors somewhat the situation in Canada’s neighbor to the south the US, where the conservative Republican Party also wields outsized negative influence on legislative gambling matters.  Popular opinion in both countries general favors liberalization of sports betting laws, to bring them in line with the European market, but the sentiment has been stymied across North America by this conservative minority.

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