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Senate to debate single-sports betting bill approved by House

Posted Nov 26 2012 1:49am

In a rare show of unanimity, the House of Commons has approved a bill opening the door to betting on single sporting events in Canada. But, under pressure from the professional sports industry, it appears headed for defeat in the Senate.

Legalizing single sports game betting in Canada would lift the veil on such practices already taking place in the world of illegal gambling, says Windsor West MP Brian Masse.

Speaking on CTV’s Question Period, Masse said making single-sports event betting legal would regulate the practice, and take it out of the hands of criminals.


Currently, it’s only legal to bet on multiple matches at once, and only through Internet sites and the legal lottery game Proline. Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MP Joe Comartin originally sponsored the private members bill that seeks to eliminate the section from the Criminal Code preventing "wagers on the outcome of a single sporting event."

Masse, who seconded the bill, has taken the lead on it after Comartin assumed the role of Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

“The problem is, is that the money that goes to that is going to organized crime and other consortiums that is not used accordingly,” said Masse, who has a casino in his riding.

Supporters of Bill C-290 say it could boost local businesses. One study estimates the additional revenues gained from the increased wagers could reach $40 million a year. Canadians already wager an estimated $10 billion a year on professional sports matches.

The issue has become a political football in Ottawa, where the bill sailed through the House of Commons with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s support. The Conservative-dominated Senate, however, could be set to vote it down.

Conservative Senator Linda Frum says legalizing single sports match betting poses a grave danger to sport.

“What this bill will do is to add a type of gambling to our menu of gambling that has a particular pernicious aspect to it and that is the danger it poses to the integrity of sport,” she said on CTV’s Question Period Sunday.

Members of the professional sports community oppose the legislation and say that wagering on single matches will make it easier to fix games.

Sports leagues associations are “horrified” that the House of Commons passed the bill, said Frum, and added such groups were never given the opportunity to consult on the bill.

“Such wagering poses perhaps the greatest threat to the integrity of our games,” the NHL said in a statement on the bill last week.

“We do not want any government to teach children to gamble on their heroes,” said Paul Beeston, president of the Toronto Blue Jays and former Major League Baseball president.

Senator and former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers weighed in too, suggesting that gambling has no place in hockey either.

“I spent 30 years in hockey with a straight line on betting: it was simply a no-no,” he said.

“In my career in the Senate this is the first time where we’ve seen an example where something got through without the proper due diligence,” Frum said Sunday.

Masse disputed that, saying there was opportunity to force a vote or speak out against it and no such action was taken.



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