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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bill C-290, Single Game Sports Betting and Organized Crime in Canada


Despite the availability of provincially authorized sports lottery parlay games and offshore betting and gaming (iGaming) operations licensed and regulated in other jurisdictions, unlicensed and unregulated sports books run by organized crime continue to flourish in Canada. Recent law enforcement efforts to combat such sports books have resulted in arrests, but legislation aimed in part at depriving sports books run by organized crime of markets by providing safe, lawful alternatives appears to have stalled.

On February 3, 2013, police raided an invitation-only 2,300-person Super Bowl party north of Toronto, Ontario. Six men were charged with offences relating to their alleged roles in betting taking place at the party and in connection with an alleged illegal iGaming operation in relation to the iGaming website PlatinumSB. These arrests were part of Project Amethyst, a partnership between three levels of Canadian police formed for the purpose of investigating the criminal activities of a particular organized crime group.

The PlatinumSB arrests came at a time when it appears the Canadian Senate is prepared to let Bill C-290, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sports-Betting),” lapse. Bill C-290 is a private member’s bill originally introduced by Windsor Member of Parliament Joe Comartin. If passed, the bill would modify the Canadian Criminal Code to remove the restrictions that prevent provincial lottery corporations from offering wagers on “any race or fight, or on a single sports event or athletic contest.”

Subject to restrictions in the Criminal Code, each Canadian province determines which bets and games it offers within its jurisdiction. The purpose of Bill C-290 is to expand the potential bets that provinces may offer so that provincial lottery corporations may compete with U.S. casinos (by having Nevada-style sports books) and also to provide Canadians an alternative to unregulated betting that may be operated by organized crime (by being able to offer bets on single events).

Passing Bill C-290 would allow provincial lottery corporations to be on a level playing field with gambling operations run by organized crime with respect to the types of bets able to be offered. The law as presently drafted requires that Pro Line, the current provincial lottery corporation sports betting operation, must offer only parlay betting to customers. Parlay bets are generally considered “sucker” bets, due to the large house edge.

Opponents of Bill C-290 in the Senate who have spoken in debate have not addressed the organized crime issue, despite the fact that it was prominently discussed when the bill was reviewed in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Supporters of Bill C-290 must raise the PlatinumSB arrests as an issue in debate, making it clear that those who oppose the bill may unwittingly do a favour to organized crime operations that earn millions of illicit dollars by carrying on unregulated betting in the void created by the status quo.

To learn more about Bill C-290 and the effect on organized crime, check out the complete article in the latest edition of Gaming Legal News.