Bill C-218, also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, was passed by the House of Commons on April 20. Now in the Senate, if passed, it would legalize gambling on a single sports game. Currently, Canadians can only place parlay bets that cover multiple games, so people then skirt the law by using offshore betting services and websites to gamble on sporting events.
“The industry has wanted this change for over a decade because we’ve seen the rise of offshore betting and illegal betting operations,” said Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. “The modernization of this law would level the playing field. The real benefits are that it gives greater consumer protection and oversight, regulation of the operation sports wagering, and it would create jobs and economic opportunity in communities, especially those with gaming facilities now.”
Burns said that, each year, Canadians spend about $4 billion through offshore sports books and another $10 billion through operations in Canada run by organized crime.
“Just like what was happening with marijuana before legalization, we’re dealing with a product that millions of Canadians spend billions of dollars on illegally but, with sports betting, the laws haven’t really kept pace in the same way,” said Burns.
But, not everyone is convinced it will curb illegal gambling operations. Among them is organized crime specialist Stephen Metelsky.
“I don’t think it’ll have a real impact on organized crime. Drugs and gambling are two things the government will never be able to fully control through legalization, or be able to thwart the involvement of organized crime. If anything, Bill C-218 will allow the hardcore gamblers to put down additional bets on single games,” Metelsky said. “At the end of the day, if they need a loan they cannot get legitimately, organized crime is ever present to accommodate through loan sharking. It is the tertiary crimes that spill over from gambling through unpaid debts, assaults, extortion, frauds or murders.”
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