The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) has expressed its disappointment after the House of Commons voted against a bill to permit single event sports betting, pledging to continue the fight for a liberalised gambling market in Canada.
The association spoke out after Bill C-221, the Safe & Regulated Sports Wagering Act, was rejected in the House of Commons by a vote of 156 to 133 at its second reading earlier this week.
This vote denied representatives from labour, business, sports and communities the opportunity to give testimony to the House on the issue, the CGA said. It estimates that around $14bn is wagered illegally by Canadians each year, meaning lost revenue for the government, lost jobs and missed economic opportunities.
Ultimately the prohibition on single event sports betting prevents gambling operators and regulators from providing a safe and regulated framework throughout the country. Currently only parlay wagers on multiple events are permitted.
“I regret that I don't have better news for Canadians," CGA chief executive Bill Rutsey said. "Those who understand what is at risk, and the benefits that could exist by implementing regulation, are frustrated and dissatisfied by the vote.
“The scales of justice are badly misaligned where this issue is concerned, and I remain baffled that the Government of Canada can't recognize it too.”
The CGA estimates that $38m is wagered through illegal operators every day, totalling $8.1bn since C-221 was first introduced. It added that only unlicensed iGaming operators and organised crime will benefit from the ban.
The bill was ultimately misunderstood, the association explained. It said that many MPs assumed it aimed to increase gambling in Canada, while the opposite was true. Each year $14bn is already being wagered, and the bill was instead an attempt to regulate, contain and reduce illegal activity.
“The Safe & Regulated Sports Betting Act is about delivering greater regulation and oversight, protecting the integrity of sport, and ensuring the proceeds of sports wagering go to employee wages and enhanced tax revenue for provincial governments to spend on health care and education, not the Hell's Angels,” the CGA said.
Brian Masse, the MP for Windsor West who introduced C-221 to the House, was thanked for his efforts, as were fellow MPs Chris Bittle and Gord Brown for their “steadfast support” for the bill.
“The need for greater oversight and regulation has not diminished", Rutsey concluded. "The CGA looks forward to working with Members of Parliament to introduce the necessary legislative changes at the earliest opportunity, in order to thwart the illegal and unregulated sports betting market that continues unabated in this country.”