The Canadian parliamentary effort to decriminalize single-game sports wagering suffered an apparently fatal blow Wednesday night in the face of Liberal Party opposition. The House of Commons rejected single-game sports wagering bill C-221 by a close vote count of 156 to 133.
Had it been approved, the bill would have been referred to the House’s Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Now, its hopes—and the hopes of single-game sports wagering in the country—are effectively dead for the foreseeable future.
New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse, who introduced the bill, had argued that the passage of the bill would have created jobs, helped fight organized crime, and contribute to provincial economies throughout Canada. “By defeating this legislation the Liberal Government just endorsed an unacceptable reality in the gaming sector in Canada. They are well aware of the massive revenue stream sports wagering is providing organized crime to fund human trafficking, the illegal drug and weapons trade, money laundering and tax evasion,” MP Masse said Wednesday night.
The bill’s critics in the legislature had argued that passing the bill would not effectively discourage illegal wagering and could exacerbate problem gaming issues in the country. The NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB all filed opposition letters in 2012 to Canada’s previous sports betting efforts.
The NBA retracted its opposition in 2015 to align more closely with its current stance on wagering. The other three leagues continued to maintain their opposition. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently told Bloomberg Surveillance that hockey doesn’t lend itself to betting like other sports do. His league, which has the largest number of franchises in Canada of any of the four North American leagues, wrote in 2012 that widespread sports betting legalization in Canada would threaten the integrity of NHL games.
Bettman has not taken that approach, however, with the city housing the NHL’s newest franchise: Las Vegas. The NHL awarded Sin City its first major professional franchise earlier, and said that any concerns the league had about gambling were not regarding the integrity of the game.
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