Single-event sports betting bill to be revived by NDP next Parliament

Several New Democrats who will be part of the new Parliament say they intend to revive a single-event sports betting bill that previously was passed in the House of Commons, but never progressed in the Senate.

New Democrats in Windsor-Essex plan to reintroduce bill that got stuck in Senate and eventually died

New Democrat Brian Masse, who was re-elected in Windsor West on Oct. 19, says that he will be reintroducing a single-event sports betting bill as soon as he can when Parliament resumes. (CBC)

What are the odds it will happen this time around?

Several New Democrats who will be part of the new Parliament say they intend to revive a single-event sports betting bill that previously was passed in the House of Commons, but never progressed in the Senate.

New Democrat Brian Masse, who won re-election in the southwestern Ontario riding of Windsor West, said that his party will bring that private member's bill forward, again, as soon as it can.

Masse said much of the work has already been done, but he said the New Democrats are willing to collaborate with colleagues from other parties in order to bring the bill into law.

"What we want to do is have the bill pass, so we want to make sure everyone is comfortable," Masse told CBC News in an interview on Monday.

The specific timing of this process won't be clear until the Liberal government has its cabinet sworn in and the House of Commons is recalled. But once that happens, Masse said, it will be a priority for him.

"A lot of things right now are in flux because of the dramatic shift in Parliament," Masse said, referring to the Liberals' jump from third-party status to government in last week's election.

'We're all interested in following through'

His newly elected colleague in Windsor-Tecumseh, Cheryl Hardcastle, has also spoken of ensuring that the bill gets revived in the coming session.

"I think that that is something that's of regional interest here and I know that we're all interested in following through and moving forward with that," she told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning the day after the election.

Cheryl Collier, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, isn't sure that single-event sports betting legislation is a priority for the incoming Liberal government. (CBC)

These New Democrats had already pledged to reintroduce this bill during the recent election campaign, as did Tracey Ramsey, their colleague who was elected in the nearby rural riding of Essex.

In Ottawa, the Liberals are currently focused on their transition into power. Their cabinet is due to be sworn in on Nov. 4.

Cheryl Collier, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, said sports betting does not appear to have been a priority issue for the Liberals.

That will affect how the bill fares in Parliament, should the New Democrats bring it forward as a private member's bill.

"Maybe somebody is able to get through to the prime minister or his inner circle and make a good case and maybe in that case, they will take it up," she said in an interview on Monday.

'Shameful' result from Senate

Joe Comartin, the now retired MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, introduced the prior bill in the last Parliament in 2011. It was sent to the Senate in 2012, but never got passed into law.

Earlier this year, Comartin called the Senate's handling of the bill "shameful," saying that the opposition to the bill had come from sitting senators.

Two Conservative senators who publicly opposed the bill were Linda Frum and Vern White.

Frum once called the bill "reckless" and White has attacked Masse's argument that it would take money out of the hands of organized crime, who are able to profit from illegal gambling.

"If we followed the line of thinking of Brian Masse, we would legalize cocaine and heroin too. Organized crime is doing it, so why don't we do it too," White said, earlier this year.

Frum did not respond to a request for an interview on Monday. White was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Money and jobs at stake

The Canadian Gaming Association says Canadians spend $450 million a year on multiple or parlay bets, but more than $10 billion on single sporting events.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa wanted the bill pass in order to create new sources of revenue for provinces to spend on hospitals and education.

Shawn Rumble, a problem gambling counsellor at Windsor's Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, believes that if the bill does become law someday, it will feed more gambling addictions.

However, Masse said that more money could be put toward gambling addiction treatment programs if the betting is legalized.

Unifor, the union representing employees at Caesars Windsor, say the change would create jobs and allow Caesars to offer a wager that is illegal in Michigan, home to three casinos in Detroit, alone.

A report by the Canadian Gaming Corporation estimates Caesars Windsor and Fallsview Casino could ad 250 full-time jobs if the bill is passed.

A case study prepared by HLT Advisory for the association estimates Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls could earn a net gaming profit of between $9 million and $12 million each year. In Windsor, it would be $18 million to $24 million.

Windsor would also see up to $7 million in "ancillary revenue," the HLT Advisory report found.

With files from the CBC's Dale Molnar


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