Single sports bets would give Canada edge, expert says

David G. Schwartz, the director of the Gaming Research Center at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said Ontario casinos would benefit most from single-event sports betting.

David G. Schwartz, the director of the Gaming Research Center at UNLV, says Bill C-290 would 'definitely be a draw'

The debate over single-event sports betting continues in the Senate while tourism boards and casinos say they're missing out on money during events like March Madness. 2:06

A leading gaming expert says it would be wise for Canada to legalize single-event sports betting.

David G. Schwartz, the director of the Gaming Research Center at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said Ontario casinos would benefit most.

"It's a good thing. It has potential to change it a lot," Schwartz said. "It would definitely be a draw. It would give people a reason to cross the border. It’s something you can do that you can’t do in Detroit. I think any time you’ve got a product, that’s a little different, it gives you an advantage."

Schwartz said "the vast majority" of sports betting in Las Vegas is done so on single games. Eight per cent of total sports betting wins comes from parlay bets while 92 per cent comes from single events.

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 passed through the House of Commons without opposition but is stranded in the Senate, where it's being debated and met with serious opposition.

Bill C-290 called 'reckless'

Professional sports leagues, such as Major League Baseball and the NHL also oppose the bill.

During debate on Feb. 12, Senator Linda Frum called the bill "reckless."

"To enact a bill that will have, in the estimation of the [professional sports] leagues, a seriously deleterious effect on them, without having consulted them first, would be akin to renegotiating NAFTA without first consulting the auto industry," Frum said. "It was only when the Senate legal committee began studying Bill C-290 in a rigorous fashion, which included not only reaching out to the important stakeholders mentioned above but also to experts in the fields of addiction and mental health, that the recklessness that is Bill C-290 became fully exposed."

Windsor-West NDP MP Brian Masse, who co-sponsored the bill, said jobs and money are at stake.

"We need a new product in Windsor to compete against the high dollar. This would be a new product that would be very well received in Windsor, Niagara Falls and other border cities," he said. "The reality is Michigan doesn’t have that legislation right now."

It's only legal to do so in four U.S. states. Michigan and Ohio, two of Ontario's biggest gaming competitors, aren't among them.

In Las Vegas, the Super Bowl and the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness, are two of the city's biggest draws.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority the average weekend occupancy rate in Las Vegas in 2011 was 83 per cent. During the month of March that same year it was 95.3 per cent.

Michael Lawton of the Nevada Gaming Commission called the economic outcome of March Madness, "immeasurable."

'We are missing out'

In Windsor, overall occupancy rates are up over this time last year but the numbers are nothing like the full house Vegas is expecting this weekend.

"It's difficult to quantify what we are missing out on, but certainly we are missing out on an opportunity," said Gordon Orr, head of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island.

Schwartz said single-event sports betting plays to both the casual and serious gambler.

"If you have something like the tournament, people don’t have a lot of time to go out and enjoy the nightlife. But there are people who are casual gamblers and there is a lot of interchange with nightclubs," he said.

Schwartz said the Super Bowl remains the game with the biggest single total of bets placed on it but that more bets are placed and more people are betting over the entire opening weekend of March Madness, which officially tipped off Tuesday night.

"I don’t understand the difference between three, two or one. We would have an advantage over our American competitors during March Madness and the Super Bowl," Masse said. "The reality is that it’s happening anyways. People in Windsor will get on a plane and go to Vegas for the Super Bowl and Final Four."

Caesars Windsor would support single-event sports betting.

"We would welcome it with open arms," said casino spokesperson Jhoan Baluyot. "So, to say that we want it, we want it a lot, yes."