Senate's bad luck boosts betting bill's odds

Marjory LeBreton



OTTAWA -  It looked like a sports betting bill now before the Senate was a bad wager, but luck seems to have turned for the beleaguered private member's bill.

Bill C-290, which would allow Canadians to wager on a single sporting event at a time, has been languishing so long on the Red Chamber's agenda it was widely assumed it would die on the order paper when Senate rose for summer break.

But a Conservative volunteer - who is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue - said Government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton threw a bone this week to Tory MPs increasingly frustrated with shenanigans in the Upper Chamber.

The volunteer said MPs are growing increasingly resentful over spending scandals embroiling senators like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin - and they have only compounded their view senators have generally been "acting like petulant children" in recent months and slow in passing legislation.

So LeBreton told her team to fast-track votes on private member's bills still on the Senate agenda in a bid to calm frustrated colleagues in the House.

It means C-290 will likely face a vote before the Senate breaks for summer recess in the coming month.
LeBreton's office said in an email reponse they hope to "advance all of the PMBs in a timely manner."

But Paul Burns, with the Canadian Gaming Association, said he'd heard about the bid to grease the legislative wheel.

"We're encouraged by that," he said.

A delegation pushing the bill - lead by Burns and Niagara Falls, Ont., Mayor Jim Diodati - were in Ottawa on Thursday lobbying in support of C-290.

Diodati maintains C-290 would be a boon to border tourism industries in Niagara Fall and Windsor, Ont., and that - with eight provinces supporting Bill C-290 - it was worth the gamble to get more Americans visiting Canadian casinos.

"If the politics line up and the dollars line up, then you have to do it as far as I'm concerned," he said.

In Canada, like in most of North America, gamblers can only wager on two or more games at once.

But moving towards being allowed to bet on single sports games at a time is strongly opposed by pro sports leagues like the NHL and NBA that say it would open the door to match fixing - and they're fighting those efforts tooth-and-nail in Canada and the United States.

The heavily lobbied C-290 also has vocal challengers in Parliament, who charge it passed in the House without due diligence. While it received all-party support, it also got less than an hour of scrutiny in committee.

Supporters of C-290 argue it makes sense to allow Canadians to legally bet on single sports games because many already do so online or with illegal bookmaking operations.

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