Several Canadian chambers of commerce, representing thousands of businesses in six provinces, have banded together to lobby senators to approve single sports betting.
The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, Atlantic Chamber of Commerce and Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec have sent a letter to senators.
The chambers stress " the importance of passing Bill C-290 ... for our economy."
Senators are currently debating whether to amend the Criminal Code and allow people to bet on just one game at time, rather than multiple games.
The bill was passed unanimously in the House of Commons more than a year ago. It's in second reading in the Senate.
In their letter, the chambers outline "economic and social benefits" of the bill, including:
- Offering people a legal alternative to illegal single-event betting involving organized crime.
- An additional source of provincial revenue to support social programs including health care and education.
- The creation of additional jobs at provincially-operated/regulated casinos.
- An additional value proposition for U.S. citizens deciding where to spend their tourism dollars.
Currently, gamblers in Ontario, for example, must bet on a minimum of three games, otherwise known as a parlay bet. However, Bill C-290 is legislation that would legalize betting on single games.
It's much easier to correctly predict the outcome of a single game than it is to predict the outcome of three.
Some fear it's also easier to compromise the integirty of a single game by convincing officials or players to cheat, shave points or throw a game.
However, there are those who insist the games won't be rigged.
"I think that if you can put in enough protective measures, you can have single-event betting occur and still not have people engage in criminal activity. In Ontario, right now, you can go on the internet and make the same bet with less regulation," Jim Warren, president and CEO of Riseley Gaming Inc., told CBC in October. "So really, at the end of the day, there's going to be more measures."
Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Matt Marchand is one of those pushing for the bill's approval.
"We have a competitive marketplace for casinos. By having single sports betting and tax-free winnings, that really puts Caesars Windsor in a very strong position in the marketplace. We need to leverage that position," he said.
Single sports betting is legal in four of the 50 U.S. states.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a Super Bowl weekend or a major sports event weekend here in Windsor-Essex?" Marchand asked. "Have them stay at the hotel for a couple days and get out and enjoy the amenities Windsor-Essex has to offer."
The Windsor-Essex chamber teamed up with fellow Ontario chambers last year. Now, it's broadening its reach.
"This is a national issue," Marchand said. "The message to the Senate is there a strong appetite for this bill. It has all-party support. The business community supports it. The labour community supports it."
The chambers said they want to legalize what's already happening across Canada.
"It is estimated that nothing less than $14 billion dollars of Canadian offshore and illegal betting goes under taxation radar every year. In an era where governments are clamping down on tax evaders and cheats, it would seem a no-brainer that to move forward to legalize this type of betting would be a win-win for the Canadian gaming industry, as well as for the Canadian taxpayer,'' said Pierre Cadieux, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce.
Marchand called the bill "good for our economy," particularly in Windsor, where 3,500 people work at Caesars Windsor and unemployment hovers around nine per cent.
"Why not bring that to the surface and use that to employ people in Windsor, Atlantic Canada and Quebec?" Marchand asked. "It's better to have that gambling legal, safe and in a controlled environment. Oh, and by the way, come stay at our casino for a few days while you do that."