Debate starts on single sports betting bill

A Windsor MP is optimistic about the prospects for a sports betting bill he is trying to bring into law, but he knows it will all depend on what his fellow parliamentarians are willing to do.
Windsor West MP Brian Masse has introduced a private member's bill in Ottawa that seeks to allow provinces and territories to allow single-event sports betting in their jurisdictions if they choose to do so. (File Photo)

A Windsor NDP MP is optimistic about the prospects for a sports betting bill he is trying to bring into law, but he knows it will all depend on what his fellow parliamentarians are willing to do.

Bill C-221, known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, is a private member's bill tabled by Brian Masse, the MP for Windsor West. It receives second reading Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Today is the bill's first hour of debate at second reading. Normal practice for private member's bills is for a second hour of debate — and a vote — to be scheduled weeks down the road.

"I feel good about the chances," Brian Masse, the MP for Windsor West, told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning in an interview on Monday.

Masse introduced the bill in February.  If eventually passed, it would let provinces and territories allow betting on single sporting events.

Currently, gamblers in Ontario, for example, must bet on a minimum of three games, otherwise known as a parlay bet. Gamblers need to correctly predict the outcome of all three games in order to win.

However, Bill C-221 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 at the same time.

Joe Comartin, a recently retired parliamentarian and the former NDP MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, brought a bill forward to achieve this same outcome in the last parliament. His bill went to the Senate, but failed to progress from there.

This time around, Masse said there is still work to be done and that includes educating parliamentarians about how some of the circumstances are different from when Comartin's bill was brought forward.

"Things have changed since the bill made it to the Senate last time," he said.

One example Masse pointed to was the position of the National Basketball Association on this issue. He said the league has indicated in correspondence that it is now "supporting regulated, single-event sports betting."

Masse said he is doing some outreach work to other MPs, as well as to senators.

"We are working with a number of different senators, some new as well, too, that are very much interested and they've had a proactive approach to it," he said.

'We're making good progress'

Masse attended a strategy session in Ottawa on Monday, which involved various groups that are supportive of the bill that he has brought forward.

"We're making good progress. It's all over Ottawa this morning," Windsor Essex County Regional Chamber of Commerce president Matt Marchand told CBC from Ottawa. "We need to be first in because sooner or later other jurisdictions are going to have single sports betting."

Last year, the NDP claimed single-event sports betting would have "created or saved 250 jobs" at Caesars Windsor.

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 original bill passed 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, previously told CBC that he believes single-event sports betting will feed more gambling addictions.

With files from the CBC's Tony Doucette and CBC Radio's Windsor Morning