The bill to legalize single-game wagering in Canada (C-290) picked up again Thursday and Hon. Sen. Bob Runciman put forth one of the best and most eloquent arguments in support of legalized single-game wagering you will ever read.
The speech could be a turning point for the bill, which recently appeared doubtful to pass through the Senate, even though it was passed unanimously in the House of Commons. It is currently in the midst of the third and final reading and debate in the Senate and if it passes, legalized single-game wagering will be available in Canada very soon.
You can read Sen. Runciman's complete speech here, but below is a look at some of the highlights - which will leave North American sports bettors cheering.
Hon. Bob Runciman moved third reading of Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting):
"Voting against this bill ignores the testimony of those who treat problem gamblers. Voting against this bill ignores the submissions of those with experience enforcing the laws against illegal gambling. Voting against this bill plays to what I consider the baseless claims of the professional sports leagues. Voting against this bill ignores the reality of sports betting today, a reality that has been played out in the headlines of this city in recent weeks with the arrest of 21 area people charged with bookmaking in connection with a multi-million-dollar, Internet-based sports betting operation."
"Make no mistake: If you vote against this bill, you are not voting to put a stop to single-event sports gambling, but you are voting to ensure it remains in the shadows, with the money going offshore and to organized crime."
"What else did they (the experts who testified before Senate Committee) tell us? Well, they agreed that the incidence of problem gambling has stabilized at around 1 per cent of the population in recent years, despite a vast increase in gambling opportunities. Legalized single-event sports betting is unlikely to move those numbers."
"In fact, problem gambling is more likely in the illegal environment, where responsible gambling measures are not in place, a fact confirmed by Dr. Kelly when he told us about two studies his organization did in 2001 and 2005."
"I do not want to minimize the problems caused by gambling in our society, but I do want to ensure things are kept in perspective. The dire social consequences predicted by opponents of this bill simply are not supported by the facts."
"We also received submissions from the NFL, the NHL and the NBA. These leagues provided strongly worded briefs, all apparently written by the same person, that suggest legalized betting is destructive to the social fabric, a threat to the integrity of sports and damaging to the bonds of trust between sporting organizations and their fans.
"This is from Major League Baseball, which looked the other way as steroid-fuelled players rewrote the record book — the same Major League Baseball where the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, has admitted he bet on 52 games of his own team in a single season. This is from the NHL, which allowed a convicted bookie, Rick Tocchet, to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is the same NHL that allowed the Edmonton Oilers to sign an advertising agreement with Bodog, a gambling website, which included rink board advertising, concourse and other signage and radio spots. This is the same NHL that promotes the PRO-LINE Dash for Cash between periods of Ottawa Senators games. This is from the National Football League that plays games in London, England, a country that has had single-event sports betting for many years.
"It seems to me, honourable senators, that these leagues are doing a pretty good job of threatening the integrity of sports all by themselves."
"What we have in North America are sports leagues that believe that if they pretend gambling does not exist they do not need to worry about it. Let us get real here. Why do they think newspapers print the point spreads for games?"
"Where the house did not do its job was in committee, where it held a brief less than one-hour hearing, I believe, and failed to call anyone who might have a concern regarding the bill.
"Senator Baker continues to come back to the argument that, in his opinion, the other place (House of Commons) did not properly consider this legislation.... How should the Senate react to that house committee's failure? Well, I would suggest not by voting against the bill but by ensuring that this body makes certain that the legislation is appropriately scrutinized and that all interested parties, pro and con, have an opportunity to be heard. I believe we did that in spades. The committee did good work, even extending its hearings to accommodate witnesses critical of the bill. We should be able to move on and deal with the substance of the bill, not the actions or inactions of the other place. That is up to their members to deal with."
"I will conclude by addressing another argument, the moral argument, and the belief that we should not encourage an activity such as gambling. There is an argument that we do not legalize drugs and prostitution simply because people want to engage in these activities, so why should we legalize gambling? Honourable senators, that is a false analogy. Gambling is already legal. In fact, sports betting is already legal."
"There is no moral distinction between betting on multiple games, known as a "parlay," which is now legal, and betting on a single game. The only difference is that most sports fans know that parlay betting is for suckers because you have very little chance of winning, and that is the reason people are attracted to single-event sports betting and why they will continue to engage in it, whether or not this chamber passes this legislation."
"The reality is that we cannot shut down the Internet. They have tried that in the United States with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act."
"The money seized under that act is a pittance compared to what is being gambled online by Americans. It is suggested it is over $1 billion a day according to some estimates."