Supporters scramble to save betting bill

A worker cleans the Throne in the Senate at Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 1, 2011. (ANDRE...

A worker cleans the Throne in the Senate at Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 1, 2011. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

OTTAWA – New Democrats are scrambling to save legislation that would loosen Canadian gambling laws after pro-sports leagues pressured senators to kill the bill.

The NHL, NBA and NFL, along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, are on the offensive against a private member's bill that would allow Canadians to put money on single sporting events like the Super Bowl.

They're concerned single-game betting would open players to match fixing and their efforts have left senators divided on a bill that sped through the House with no opposition.

Senator Jacques Demers, former head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, said this is will be the toughest decision he's had to make in the upper chamber.

“I don't want it to become an emotional decision,” he said. “I've spent my life in hockey.

"I've always told my players it was extremely important to not have any people around talking about betting and these situations.”

Senate leader Marjorie LeBreton, who personally supports Bill C-290, called it a “true test of sober second thought.”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson met with the Tory Senate caucus Tuesday to promote the bill after a few weeks of them hearing “one point of view” at committee, she said.

C-290 has backing of Nicholson and his Tory MP colleagues Robert Goguen and Brent Rathberger, Liberal MP Sean Casey, NDP MP Joe Comartin – its sponsor – and his colleague Brian Masse.

Masse accuses the pro-sports leagues and the NCAA of “fear mongering.”

In Canada, like in most of North America, gamblers can only wager on two or more games at a time. Only Nevada – and recently New Jersey – allow people to wager on a single sporting event.

“(The leagues) don't do that in Nevada, there's no big campaign to stop betting on the Super Bowl. It's clear Canada is getting a different treatment than the United States,” Masse said.

(The NCAA did pull championship games from New Jersey after the state brought it single-game betting.)

Proponents maintain billions of dollars in revenue is being lost when Canadians take to the Internet to gamble on games and changing the rules would mean a windfall for casino regions in Canada.

On Wednesday, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen sent a letter to Tory Senator Bob Runciman, who chaired the Senate committee studying the private member's bill, trying to allay fears it was rushed through the House.

“Our hope is that the Senate will make its judgment on this bill based on its merit, not on the false assertions of some that the House made its judgment in undue haste,” he wrote.

The Senate is expected to vote on C-290 as early as next week.


Videos

Photos