Supporters of proposed federal legislation that would legalize single-event sports betting are using this weekend's Super Bowl XLVIII to pressure senators to give final approval to a private member's bill.
Bill C-290 would allow gamblers across Canada to bet on one sports event at a time. Currently, bettors must wager on more than one game at once and correctly predict the outcome of each one in order to win — it's known as a parlay bet. They are more difficult to win and aren't as popular among gamblers.
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The proposed legislation would repeal the Criminal Code section that prohibits betting on a single race, fight, sporting event or athletic contest.
The chambers of commerce in Windsor-Essex and Niagara Falls, Ont., say single-event sports betting would increase revenue and create jobs, particularly at Caesars Windsor and Fallsview casinos.
They are urging senators this week to get moving on the bill.
"It would be an opportunity for us to generate more than 100 jobs and lots of opportunity for people to come and enjoy Windsor-Essex assets such as Caesars Windsor," Windsor-Essex chamber president Matt Marchand said.
Bill C-290 got unanimous approval by all parties in the House of Commons, but has been stalled in the Senate for nearly two years.
The bill had passed first and second readings prior to the prorogation of Parliament in September. That sent the bill back to Square One in the Senate. It has since passed first reading, again. There has been no further debate and none is scheduled.
Millions of dollars at stake
The Canadian Gaming Association claims $26 million in single-event sports betting have been wagered illegally while the Senate has debated the bill.
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 report found.
"It’s an opportunity that for the second year in a row has gone unfulfilled," Marchand said.
According to the State of Nevada Gaming Control Board, a record $98,936,798 US was wagered on the 2013 Super Bowl at the state's 183 legal sportsbooks.
Caesars Windsor in particular could benefit from single-event sports betting. It's now competing with three Detroit casinos and another in Toledo, Ohio, just 45 minutes away.
Bill C-290 would allow Caesars to offer something those four don't.
“The passage of Bill C-290 would give people a reason to cross the border into Canada," said Bill Rutsey, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association.
As it stands now in Canada, a bettor must add at least one other game to a Super Bowl wager if he or she wants to bet on what is commonly considered the biggest sporting event of the year.
"If you want to bet on the outcome of the Super Bowl, why do you also have to throw in an NHL game and a Premier League Football match?" asked Rutsey.
Professional sports leagues strongly oppose the bill. They argue allowing single-game betting could lead to the corruption of officials and players, match-fixing and social problems associated with gambling.
In a written submission made in November 2012, the NHL urged the Senate not to pass the bill, saying the game's integrity is essential to its popularity.
Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays have also appeared before a Senate committee to voice their opposition.
Outspoken MP opposes bill
Wellington-Halton Hills Conservative MP Michael Chong, former minister of sport, is asking the Senate to not pass the bill.
"Gambling revenues come at a high cost to society," Chong says on his website. "Research shows that government-sponsored gambling has dangerous social consequences."
A report by Ontario’s chief coroner found that gambling-related suicides more than tripled between 1998 and 2007.
Thirteen people troubled by gambling-related debt or addictions took their own lives in Ontario in 2007, while 12 did so in 2006, nine in 2005 and seven in 2004.
"We should not add to the adverse social costs of gambling by expanding it through the legalization of single sports betting," Chong says on his site.
While debating the bill a year ago, Senator Linda Frum called the bill "reckless."