Canadian politicians have new sports betting legislation to consider, but it remains to be seen whether this latest effort will have any more success than its long-suffering predecessor.
On Wednesday, Brian Masse (pictured), member of parliament for Windsor West, introduced legislation in the House of Commons aimed at legalizing single-game sports wagering.
The C-221 bill, which Masse has dubbed the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, would delete a single section of Canada’s Criminal Code that would allow provinces and territories to authorize wagering on “any race or fight, or on a single sports event or athletic contest.” At present, the provincial lottery monopolies are restricted to multi-game parlay wagering.
Masse issued a statement suggesting that there may be a role for private firms to join the sports betting party. Masse described the current single-game sports betting environment as “nearly completely unregulated” but claimed that “firms operating in the so-called grey market sports are asking to be regulated.”
Masse’s constituency includes Caesars Windsor casino, which has been clamoring to add a sportsbook to boost cross-border traffic from US bettors who lack even the limited legal betting options currently available to Canadians (and who may go on lacking, as suggested by Wednesday’s court hearing of New Jersey’s efforts to overturn the US federal betting ban).
Masse is a member of the New Democratic Party, which is relegated to opposition status in the current parliament, and whose members aren’t allowed to set the legislative agenda. Masse was only able to introduce his legislation because he won a parliamentary lottery to determine which non-government MPs would be afforded the luxury of introducing a private member’s bill in the current session.
Former MP Joe Comartin was also a member of the NDP, but he somehow managed to garner all-party support for his C-290 private member’s bill in 2012, only to see the bill languish in the nation’s unelected Senate until it officially died when the writ dropped ahead of last year’s federal election.
The House will begin debating new legislation next month, and Masse’s bill will likely receive much greater scrutiny than C-290. Critics of C-290 claimed the bill was approved by a voice vote after minimal discussion on a Friday afternoon, long after most MPs had already left Ottawa to head back to their local ridings for the weekend.
It remains to be seen how much opposition will be mounted by the professional sports leagues, in particular Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, both of which actively campaigned against C-290’s passage and continue to oppose sports betting legalization south of the border.