New gambling legislation to hit senate

Canadian sports betters might have a new game to try out in the near future, but one anti-gambling advocate in Halifax is concerned about the potential impact it would have on addiction.

There is a bill being passed through the Senate this month that would allow for single-game betting in Canada.

Formally known as Bill C-290, the bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code allowing for a Vegas-style form of sports betting.

Under existing rules, if you make a bet with the Atlantic Lottery Commission, you have to correctly predict three games to win.

“It’s going to open up the floodgates, so to speak, to cause more and more addiction,” said Bernie Walsh, an advocate on behalf of those addicted to gambling and, in particular, those hooked on video lottery terminals.

Walsh, an expert in the problems of gambling, has helped dozens of people with their addiction. He is concerned about the possible impact that sports betting is already having on young people in Nova Scotia.

“Besides the VLTs, which are the worst, I’d say the sports-type betting is probably the second-worst kind a person could get into,” said Walsh.

Walsh said sports betting is dangerous because people feel it is not just a game of chance, that they really know what the outcome will be.

It is not clear when these games will be available in Nova Scotia.

“It will be up to each province to determine if they will pursue single-event sports betting and what types of games and wagers to offer if the Criminal Code changes,” said Stacy O’Rourke, manager of communications at the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation.

There are options for people who want to gamble this way now.

Gamblers who choose to bet on single games have to go through illegal bookies or offshore gambling websites that aren’t regulated by the Canadian government, such as Bodog or Bet365.

“It is estimated that as much as $2 billion is spent in Canada annually, with all of that money going out of the country to organized crime syndicates in the U.S. and the Caribbean,” said Joe Comartin, MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, during a 2011 senate meeting.

Profits from Atlantic Lottery’s operations are used to support local schools, hospitals, roads and other public services.

“If Nova Scotia were to pursue single-event sports betting, we anticipate that some money will come back into the province but we can’t speculate how much given the existence of so many unregulated and illegal offerings,” said O’Rourke.

With more gambling options and easier-to-obtain prizes comes the possibility of more gambling addicts.

“There are some horrendous social costs to it. All we need to take a look at the makeup of our prisons, which ranges from gambling addictions to suicides,” said Kevin Lamoureux, MP for Winnipeg North.

The new betting would allow for someone to bet on a game individually across many sports, leaving many options for someone to choose from on any given night.

“Sometimes there’s 20, 30, 40 games on there and if you bet on every game, $5 a game, that’s 200 bucks,” said Walsh.

O’Rourke says there will be further studies on the possible impact before this form of gambling will be introduced here.

“Any decision regarding gaming in Nova Scotia needs to be carefully considered and be in the best interests of Nova Scotians.”

The Senate could pass the bill within a couple of weeks.


Bill C-290 would allow for single-game betting in Canada, a form a gambling previously prohibited by the Criminal Code. (Photo: Ben Cousins)