Ontario casino wants Senate to pass sports betting law

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A bill that could financially help Caesars Windsor and other Ontario casinos appears to be on death row in the Senate and that concerns Ontario's southern-most casino.

Bill C-290 would allow gamblers to bet on single sporting events, like the Super Bowl, passed unanimously in the House of Commons.

However, Senators say they are poised to reject it.

"I've talked to people individually who indicate that they're going to vote against it," Conservative Sen. Norman Doyle said in an interview earlier this month. "I'm thinking that we probably have enough people in the Senate to kill it."

It would mark the first time the Upper Chamber has rejected legislation unanimously passed by members of Parliament.

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse, who cosponsored the bill initiated by Joe Comartin, said MPs have stepped up a letter-writing campaign in Ottawa to convince senators to pass the bill.

Currently, the criminal code prohibits betting on individual sports games. It's only legal to do so in four U.S. states. Michigan and Ohio, two of Ontario's biggest gaming competitors, aren't among them.

Business at Caesars Windsor has suffered through a high Canadian dollar and U.S. passports laws so if ever there was a time Caesars Windsor could use some unique gaming aspect to attract more American guests, this is it.

"We're keeping a close eye on it. It will be good for our business," said Scott Jenkins, the director of advertising for Caesars Windsor. "It's certainly something that we're hopeful gets passed."

Union, horse industry support law

The CAW, the union representing workers at Casino Windsor, has also thrown its support behind the bill.

A year ago, the union said single-game sports betting has the potential to eventually generate, from primarily the neighbouring U.S. market, $70 million in wagering in Windsor and an additional $35 million in Niagara Falls.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Estimates the Super Bowl attracts an additional 250,000 to Sin City on an annual basis. Gamblers bet $87 million on the 2011 Super Bowl alone.

Single sports betting could also help the beleaguered horse racing industry in Ontario.

After Ontario removed slots from racetracks, the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel suggested the creation of additional streams of gaming revenue at tracks.

Options include sports books which include single-event sports betting if that’s approved by Ottawa.

It has been suggested the bill would increase the odds of game fixing.

NHL opposes law

In a written submission, the NHL urged the Senate not to pass the bill, saying the game's integrity is essential to its popularity.

"We firmly believe that legalized sports betting threatens to compromise that integrity, and that the single-game betting scheme that Bill C-290 seeks to decriminalize poses a particularized and unique threat in that regard," the league wrote.

"Such wagering poses perhaps the greatest threat to the integrity of our games, since it is far easier to engage in 'match fixing' in order to win single-game bets than it is in cases of parlay betting [as currently exists in Canada], where bets are determined on the basis of multiple game outcomes."

Jenkins said no one needs to worry.

"It will be set up no different than the rest of our gaming and things will be obviously under close scrutiny much like any other OLG property," he said.

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