The Canadian gaming industry is losing billions of dollars in sports betting revenue to the black market each year due to federal prohibitions — and a recent legalization push in the U.S. could further threaten the viability of casinos in this country, proponents say.
Casino boosters in Canada, including NDP MP Brian Masse, are hoping the recent legalization of single-event sports betting in U.S. border states like Michigan and New York will force the Liberal government to act now to save casino jobs — especially at places like Caesars Windsor and the Niagara Falls-based Fallsview, which depend on a steady stream of U.S. gamblers to stay afloat.
A years-long effort to legalize single-event sports betting — betting on a single football game, for example — stalled when the federal Liberal government voted against legislation to allow this sort of gambling in Canada.
Voting against the legislation in 2016, the government cited major sports leagues’ claims that single-event betting might lead to match-fixing. But that opposition has been blunted since sports leagues, including the NBA and NHL, have partnered with U.S.-based casino operators like MGM Resorts to bolster sports betting stateside.
Masse, who introduced a private member’s bill to dismantle the prohibition, said the Liberal government should take up the issue when the House of Commons returns next week. The government only needs to drop one sentence from the Criminal Code to end the prohibition — a change Masse said could be made through legislation or an order-in-council from cabinet.
“We are in a lose-lose position right now. We would have been ahead of the curve if we had actually defined our own destiny, but instead U.S. courts, as expected, moved ahead and left us behind. The consequences for Canada are very high,” Masse told CBC News.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned decades-old federal limits on sports betting in states other than Nevada. The result has been a push by state lawmakers — notably in New Jersey, New York and Michigan — to legalize single-game bets at casinos, racetracks and online.
Sports bettors in Canada are limited to “parlay” bets — meaning they have to place bets on more than one game, and pick the winning team in each contest, to see any sort of windfall. The odds of a winning bet are low. Canadians gamble roughly $500 million a year in parlay bets through lottery games like Pro-Line.
“Capital investments in Canada are being delayed, jobs are being lost, customers are going to be lost for the long-term. We inherit all the problems of sports gambling, but we don’t get any of the benefits or the supports to deal with the situation,” Masse said.
Canada’s gaming industry employs about 180,000 people — many more than the automotive manufacturing sector.
In a statement, Justice Minister David Lametti’s spokesperson said gambling reforms are simply not “immediate priorities.”
“Minister Lametti was honoured to receive his mandate letter in December, which outlines the immediate priorities he has been tasked with. Reforms to gambling laws are not included as part of these immediate priorities,” Rachel Rappaport said.
“Our government is aware of the recent changes to the legal frameworks for legalized gambling in the United States, which have produced consequences on both sides of the border. We continue to monitor the situation, as well as meet with and hear from individuals and groups that have been affected.”
Masse said the government’s stance betrays the voters in places like Windsor and Niagara Falls who trusted the Liberals when they said they’d take action.
“It’s very much a paternalistic approach by the federal government, denying Ontario, Quebec and B.C. and others. The message is basically, ‘Canadians can go to the internet or the black market, instead of a regulated, open market where provinces can make their own decisions,'” Masse said.
“It’s a bizarre position and I’m quite shocked that they’ve been able to skate on this so long.”
An estimated $14 billion in annual sports betting — $10 billion through the black market through bookies and $4 billion more through off-shore online outlets, according to figures from the Canadian Gaming Association — is wagered by Canadians through illegal channels, beyond the regulatory control of the government. The biggest draw of these other outlets is the fact that they allow bettors to gamble on just one game.
Paul Burns is the president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, the lobby group that represents casino interests.
Burns said the Liberal government should simply adopt the approach it took to the legalization of cannabis. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed changes to drug laws as a way to take profits out of the hands of criminals and legitimize a practice dominated by illegal sellers. Burns said the same standard should apply to sports betting.
“This would take money out of the hands of bad guys and give real benefit to the hundreds of gaming communities across the country,” Burns said.
“‘This issue isn’t going away. It’s getting worse. We’re saying to the federal government, ‘Don’t put us in a position where we have one arm tied behind our backs.’ These are great, good-paying jobs and they’re threatened. And yet, there’s a very simple solution.”
Federal and provincial governments don’t get a cut of revenues from gaming through these illegal channels. For the province of Ontario, for example, that means an estimated $400 million a year in lost profit, said Jim Lawson, head of Woodbine Entertainment, the group that runs the main horse racetrack in Toronto.
“So much money is moving offshore and offshore now includes sports wagering in the U.S. We’re really starting to feel the pressure — it’s having a dramatic impact,” Lawson told CBC News.
“There’s a huge revenue miss at a time when government is trying to keep up with health care and education costs. And when I say a revenue miss, we’re in the hundreds of millions of dollars range.”
Lawson said Woodbine Entertainment employs 15,000 people in Ontario directly or indirectly, but the horse racing industry is facing “extreme challenges” due to demographic shifts and robust competition from the U.S.
He said flowing some of the sports betting through racetracks and off-track betting shops would help stabilize an industry crucial to rural communities.
“We should be allowed to participate rather than it all going into foreign pockets and for-profit offshore operators,” Lawson said, adding that leaving horse tracks out of the equation would “decimate” racing.
Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.
Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.
The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.
“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”
Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.
“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.
“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”
“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.
Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.
Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.
“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”
He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”
“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”
Soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sure, we all had soccer balls. And we played a lot of what should be more accurately called, Kick and Run. But I – and all my friends – did not really know the rules, the teams or the players. We might’ve heard of Pelé, but not more than that.
We followed hockey, baseball, football (CFL and NFL) and basketball, in that order. I did occasionally watch soccer on TV, but that was because we didn’t have a lot of channels and the soothing English accents often lulled me to sleep.
Things are much different now. My 13-year-old son is a massive soccer fan. He plays on a team three or four times a week. His schoolmates include a lot of second-generation Canadians, whose parents came from soccer-obsessed nations. He watches Premier League and Championship League matches. He’s watches La Liga and Bundesliga. He watches World Cup qualifiers and could tell me the backstory on most of the players. In fact, he watches classic games on YouTube and plays FIFA22 on his PS4 and as a result, knows more about Pelé than I ever did. But, because of him, I now watch enough football to know a game is a match, a goalie is a keeper and I know which plays end up in corner kicks or throw-ins.
I once asked him, “How well do you know the Germany national team?” and he said, “Not very well.” He then proceeded to name seven of their 11 starters. It’s a different world.
I still know almost nothing compared to the other soccer dads, but like millions of Canadians, I watched Canada’s qualifying matches and I know we have a great team, with some stellar players who are worth watching. The qualifying matches regularly beat both hockey games and CFL football when it comes to viewership.
But we should care about more than just the matches themselves. The World Cup is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports spectacles on Earth. This will be the first one hosted in the Middle East. And although Qatar may look shiny and new on TV, it’s mired in what many Western nations believe to be medieval and backwards policies on working conditions, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights.
Finding people to talk about it in Qatar is NOT easy. One of W5’s goals this week was to talk to migrant workers to describe how they were treated, their living conditions and their labour rights. Most were too afraid to talk to us.
And to confound things, there have been many stories of journalists being detained or arrested for reporting on migrant workers. Last week, a Danish reporter was live on TV from Qatar and when asked what things were like there, he directed his camera operator to pan left – revealing security officials in golf carts, who immediately tried to stop the live hit. The next day Qatari officials apologized, but the message was clear: we can stop you from reporting when we want. It’s a fascinating video that’s been viewed millions of times around the globe.
The Qatari government denies they’ve put any restrictions on media. In a tweet, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says “several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”
Not everyone is convinced. Qatar ranks 118 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Press Freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, which is a U.S.-based freedom watchdog, gives Qatar a 25 out of 100 score on Global Freedom, which includes freedom of expression. (Canada ranks 98 and the US ranks 83).
A Reuters Institute column from last week on press freedom in Qatar suggests authorities obscure press freedom laws, by hiding behind trespassing laws.
“One of the most common risks when doing journalistic work in Qatar is to be accused of trespassing. This is what Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK were accused of when they were arrested by officers of Qatar’s Criminal Investigations Department in November 2021, while covering World Cup preparations. The journalists were held for over 30 hours before being released without charge. They deny they were filming without permission,” says the article.
A little insider info: I have personally written, “we don’t want you to get arrested, but…” at least twice in correspondence with our team in Qatar. I’ve never encouraged anyone to break the law of course, but sometimes doing our jobs leads police or security into thinking they have a duty (or at least a right) to stop you.
OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.
Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.
“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.
“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”
On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.
Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.
The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.
“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage.
She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.
But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do.
“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.
Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.
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