Canada’s single-game sports betting legislation got its second reading in Parliament this week, but the governing Liberal party continues to express opposition to the bill’s passage.
C-221, which was introduced as a private member’s bill in February by New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse, would strike a single line from the Criminal Code that restricts provincial gambling monopolies from offering anything other than multi-game parlay sports wagers.
C-221 had its first reading in April, during which the Liberals surprised everyone by opposing the bill’s passage. The Liberals had voted in favor of the bill’s predecessor, C-290, which was approved with all-party support in the House of Commons in 2012 before dying of neglect in the unelected Senate last year.
On Thursday, C-221 had its second reading, and Liberal MP Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, said he “cannot and will not be supporting it.”
Blair said he recognized that the provincial monopolies and brick-and-mortar casinos in towns that border the United States were keen on offering single-game wagers, but he worried about the “social costs of gaming.”
Blair also pooh-poohed the idea that legalizing sports betting would reduce unauthorized wagering, arguing that “the vast majority of those who bet with illegal bookmakers would continue to do so” because these bookies can offer wagering on credit as well as more favorable odds than the provincial monopolies.
Blair said Masse’s “stated objectives are indeed laudable” but these objectives would be accompanied by “significant harm to society.” As such, Blair said he wouldn’t recommend that the bill be sent to a committee for further study.
Some of Masse’s NDP colleagues spoke in favor of C-221, and Masse himself rose to accuse the Liberals of giving organized crime “the biggest single corporate tax cut from the government.” But Masse’s argument proved unpersuasive, and Parliament voted against adopting the motion.
Parliament is currently siting on a provisional basis, meaning the Liberals can shut the House down at any time if they feel they’ve accomplished the more pressing items on their agenda. Assuming the House is still in session, Bill C-221 could come up for further discussion on Wednesday (22).
A frustrated Masse later told Blackburn News that it C-221 isn’t sent to committee by Wednesday, “then this bill will not be able to be brought back again for another four years. And you will have to have the government bring it as part of a budget bill.”