Next weekend, tens of thousands of Canadians will commit a crime and funnel millions of dollars into the hands of organized criminals doing something they do not consider illegal and completely harmless.
It’s something completely legal in most of the western world and including parts of the United States. No they will not be buying a bag of weed.
Canadians will be placing a bet on the Patriots or the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
Single event sports betting should be legalized in Canada for exactly the same reasons why marijuana will be legal in 2018.
Nine provinces have asked for the federal government to make single-event sports wagering legal. Making single-event sports wagering will deliver the same benefits as legal pot without many of the negatives of weed legalization.
The Canadian Gaming Association says, “Canadians are wagering about $10 billion annually through illegal bookmaking operations in Canada, usually operated by organized crime operations.”
They estimate “an additional $4 billion is wagered through offshore online sports wagering sites.” These bets are made without any consumer protection, responsible gaming safeguards or the collection of taxes.
A legalized and regulated single sports betting industry will provide jobs, taxes and consumer protection just like a legalized weed industry. It will provide resources to problem gamblers and protection to prevent underage gamblers.
Legal single-event sports betting, which would be regulated, has responsible gaming software, testing to Canadian standards and would be overseen by experienced, world-class regulators – all steps that protect both consumers and the sports industry.
Even the International Olympic Committee has called for regulated sports wagering.
The provinces see Las Vegas-style single-event sports betting as a key driver to attract Americans to return to Canadian border casinos. It will create new jobs and new tax revenues.
I have written before about the importance of sports betting as an incentive for Americans to visit Canadian border casinos. The ability to have head-to-head sports betting combined with special events around major sporting attractions like the Super Bowl and the NCAA finals could convince more Americans to drive across the border, returning to Canadian cities to spend more tourist dollars. Now we need to act to keep Canadians at our casinos in Canada.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision early in 2018 in a case that challenges the current federal prohibition on sports gambling. Eighteen states, including New York, are set to proceed with legislation to legalize sports betting if New Jersey is successful in getting the federal ban in the U.S. overturned at the Supreme Court.
A report by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming says that’s just the minimum; the firm predicts more than 30 states could introduce sports betting bills.
Canada will need to legalize sports betting just to protect our border casinos. If a legalized and regulated marijuana industry will provide jobs, taxes and protection for youth then a legalized and regulated single sports betting industry will also provide jobs, taxes and consumer protection.
Warren is a Liberal political strategist who has worked for former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and is currently a principal at grgadvisors.ca and CEO of Riseley Gaming Inc.