03/23/2012 02:09 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Polls shows split on whether single-game sports betting a good idea

A recent poll suggests Canadians remain split over whether betting on single-game sporting events should be allowed.

Thirty-five per cent of those who took part in the Harris/Decima survey backed single-game betting, while 35 per cent opposed it.

Another 25 per cent were neither in favour nor opposed.

The telephone survey of 1,000 people was conducted between March 1-4 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Harris/Decima vice-president Richard Leigh-Bennett says those opposed pretty well mirror the percentage of people object to gambling in general to raise revenue.

"If you look at the chart that says 'Legalized gambling is a good way to raise revenues for the provinces,' you've got 40 per cent who disagree with that," he said.

"Basically, that is here to stay."

NDP MP Joe Comartin of Windsor, Ont., is sponsoring a private members' bill to change the Criminal Code to allow single-game betting. Windsor has a casino that has seen cross-border traffic drop with the stronger Canadian dollar and new casinos in the U.S.

"The idea, especially in Ontario, is they're going to put this in the border casinos to attract Americans," said Leigh-Bennett.

Betting on single-game sporting events is illegal in both Canada and the United States, except for Nevada.

Most people contacted for the poll didn't know about Comartin's bill, although the recognition factor was higher in Ontario, where it has been more of an issue, noted Leigh-Bennett.

"They've made some announcements that this is going to help the border casinos," he said.

Support for single-game betting was highest in Ontario and the Prairies.

Ontario has already announced a number of other measures to boost gambling revenue as it faces a budget cash crunch.

The province's six-year plan includes provisions for such things as selling lottery tickets online, at supermarkets and big-box stores as well as developing a new Toronto-area casino. It's suggested those and other measures could generate an additional $1.3 billion a year.

As for gambling's opponents, Leigh-Bennett says the way the question is asked sometimes determines the strength of opposition to governments drawing revenue from gambling.

"When you put it in the context of 'We're not going to do that, we'll raise your taxes instead,' they go 'Whoa, don't raise our taxes.'"