MASSE IN THE NEWS: INTERVIEW ON TSN ON BILL C-290
January 29th, 2015 - 1:58pm
SOURCE: TSN RADIO (Montreal) PROGRAM: MELNICK DATE: JANUARY 23, 2015 TIME: 15:35 LENGTH: 10 MINUTES
BRIAN MASSE, NDP MP ON SPORTS GAMBLING BILL C-290
MITCH MELNICK (Host): Brian Masse. Welcome. How are you?
BRIAN MASSE (NDP MP): Good, thank you. Thanks for having me.
MELNICK: Oh, it’s, it’s my pleasure. Right out of the gate, I don’t gamble on anything. I’m not a gambler. However, I don’t think you can legislate behaviour.
MELNICK: I think there’s, there’s too much at stake here. The hypocrisy is at a height that is hard to believe here. So, for those who aren’t aware of what you’re attempting to do, can you fill in some blanks to begin with?
MASSE: Yeah. I’ll give a brief overview of what’s taken place. Back in 2011, Joe Comartin, my colleague from Windsor-Tecumseh, introduced a bill in the House of Commons that eliminated one line of the Criminal Code that prevents us from having single sports betting in Canada. So, that would take it out of the Criminal Code. So, what would happen is that if this bill passed, provinces could sit down with the industry and their own selves and decide if they want to have single sports betting in Canada.
What’s happening right now is that the activity is taking place. Organized crime is benefiting quite significantly, and offshore betting accounts are benefiting significantly, and the activity continues to take place. So, this brings to light the issue and would allow a responsible gaming option to be developed if a province should choose they want to do so. And unfortunately, it’s now been held up for three years in the Senate as there was a campaign against the bill that has blocked it from passing right now. We’re hoping we’re going to pass that in the upcoming House of Commons, sorry, in the house sitting with the Senate. And you know, we believe that’s a problem too. I mean, the democratically-elected people of Canada decided to vote for this bill and it passed with what’s called a voice vote because there was no opposition to it from passing. And then later on some members did do a smear campaign and then the NHL and a few others who are pushing against it, and so it’s been stalled. But we’re hopeful and that’s why I wrote Commissioner Bettman about this issue, because most recently the NHL, we drew the hypocrisy of them signing a deal that allows sports betting on their, actually, website, and as well too they’re talking about, you know, a franchise in Vegas.
MELNICK: Yeah, but that’s not to gamble Brian. They’re not going to gamble if they put a team in Vegas (laughs). First of all, you say a smear campaign. In what way has it been a smear campaign? MASSE: Well, there was, there was those that argued that it hadn’t gone through a proper process in the House of Commons. But the reality is it did. It passed. And so, there was a misdirection and a lobby that members didn’t want to basically show up on a Friday to force a recorded vote and it passed unanimously. And that’s the normal process in the House of Commons. But two people that, a couple of Conservatives in particular, Michael Chong in particular, they didn’t want to show up to work on Friday. And you have to have five people that would actually want a recorded vote, stand up, and it passed because those people didn’t bother to show up to work that day.
MELNICK: Well, that sounds like your cue, Rod.
ROD (Unidentified): Yeah. I should mention Brian, I am a member of the Conservatives. But I mean, I totally agree with the principle of this bill. People are going to gamble anyway. And in this current climate when provinces are running deficits almost across the country, they need this money that’s, as you say, right now benefiting the grey market, the black market, and online gambling sites, most of whom don’t pay taxes in this country. MASSE: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And the evidence was there. It was presented. It went to the Senate where I actually presented in front of the Senate. And Rob Nicholson actually as well too tried to move some of his colleagues. But that’s where it sits right now. And I have a real problem with the, you know, an un-elected Senate holding up a bill that’s democratically passed. And you know, every single day, especially with the Super Bowl coming up, as a great example was last year. They, they, the law enforcement sting that they had captured 2.4 million dollars on Super Bowl day just in the Toronto area alone.
MELNICK: This, this background that you were giving us, the black market and etcetera, sounds a lot like the marijuana debate, doesn’t it?
MASSE: It is to some degree. But at the same time, this one also is, you know, a matter of choice for the provinces too. I mean, this just opens the possibility in the conversations for the actual choice to be made. And you know, to me I just, I don’t understand how, you know, it’s okay to bet on three games in Ontario, four games, five games, but it’s not okay to bet on two or one. I don’t, I fail to see the logic.
ROD: Yeah, that’s exactly how it works here in Quebec as well. You can go to the depanneur, go a Loto-Quebec outlet and you need to hit three games to win. But you can’t bet on a single game. It doesn’t make any sense. If, assume, let’s hope that this gets through the Senate eventually and it’s got to happen soon, right, because with an election possibly in October, would that kill the status of your bill?
MASSE: Yes it would. It would kill the bill. And that’s unfortunate. We’ve had it kept alive basically procedurally. I think the votes are getting there. I’ve been working as hard as I can to get them and we are making some progress. But again, if this doesn’t get passed and doesn’t get to the Prime Minister to be signed off on--and I don’t understand why he’s not making a push for this to get done--then it would have to start all over in another parliament and good luck with that, because we wouldn’t even know what the landscape would be after that and it would be even more members of Parliament. Another private member’s bill would have to come up. And that’s the really important factor, is this is a private member’s legislation. I would be just as happy too if the government decided to steal it.
MELNICK: Good for you. NDP MP Brian Masse in Windsor. I want to read you one paragraph from the NHL and their explanation why they oppose this.
“The NHL provides family entertainment and the league has worked tirelessly to earn and maintain a reputation for the absolute integrity of its competition for its fans. Government-sponsored and or regulated single-game sports gambling threatens to compromise the reputation and integrity of the NHL’s product and could seriously undermine our fans’ trust and confidence in honest competition. The widespread, illegal availability of gambling on single-game results will inevitably lead to concerns and possibly the widespread perception that NHL games are not completely legitimate, including allegations asserting the
possibility of point-shaving activities and the manipulation of player injury and participation practices. Making single-game sports gambling a widespread, legitimized institution will portray an image to our fans, including the youth, that gambling and sports are not only an accepted combination, but a natural one, so that if they enjoy sports, they will also enjoy gambling.” What’s wrong with that position?
MASSE: Well, it’s totally hypocrisy. You go onto the NHL site and you’ve got DraftKings. They just signed a deal with it and were bragging about it. And so, you can bet on that system there. Fantasy Sports, they target that for prizes, and that’s a game of chance as well too. And they actually target some of the youth for that. I mean, I just can’t believe that you can put your head in the sand on this issue. One of the best quotes we had from the testimony was from the former provincial police deputy, who said, “We believe that it,” being single-event sports wagering, “would be good for the Canadian public, good for the Canadian gaming industry and bad for organized crime.” And that’s just the reality, is that it’s taking place and the NHL is a participant of actually making a product that has games of chance involved in their product. They just don’t like the fact probably they don’t get a cut out of this. I don’t know what the problem is.
ROD: So, do you see fears down the road of a situation where a fan will attend a game and buy a hotdog and a beer and buy a ticket at the game? Like, do you see that happening?
MELNICK: You could do that in Europe, right?
MELNICK: In a lot of events.
MASSE: Yeah. I mean, that’ll be up to the provinces to decide and they can sit down with the industry and have a, you know, a mature conversation about what types of products to bring in and how to bring them in. And you know, and if there was going to be an integrity issue about it, the province could immediately address those issues right away. And let’s be frank here, is that we have had, and there will continue to be, with whatever system you have in place, some gaming issues that will have to be taken up because people won’t do the right thing. And so, it’s just, again, it puts more accountability… And think about this, I mean, the money that would go to our health care, education, gaming addictions, you know, do you think the people that own these offshore betting accounts and organized crime, they’re not making contributions to gaming addiction. I mean, it’s just, it’s just unbelievable that we’re passing up this opportunity. And again, it just gives choice, a choice and they can develop the product that they think they can bring to market.
MELNICK: And I should also point out if fans listening are not aware, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver, has come out in favour of this. In fact, he wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in favour of this concept.
MASSE: That is correct. And another interesting move that’s taken place most recently too is Governor Christie of New Jersey has told the casinos to move ahead on this. I mean, he’s been taking this on as well. And so, what’s going to happen, what’s also at stake here, and I’ve seen this happen in Windsor and it’ll happen to other border towns as well too that have casino industries. And again, I’m not even a sports better. I’m terrible at it. So I gave it up a long time ago, but we have the possibility of the US cascading and opening up more single-sports betting states like Vegas, because New Jersey is moving towards it, and then we will lose out on that market. I have people that write me from Ohio that want to come to Windsor to, for March Madness to bet on games, but they want single sports betting. And it’s a huge tourism element. And so, it’s not only just the people coming in, it’ll also be the fact that we have all these billions of dollars of infrastructure that become basically white elephants.
MELNICK: Tunnel to Detroit all clear?
MASSE: Yeah. Well, I mean, these are the things we’ve been facing, eh, when you think about it, like with the passports and the dollar. Thank goodness for us here it’s dropping. So, that helps manufacturing. You have the auto show going on there too. So, it helps us there too.
MELNICK: Thank you very much Mr. Masse, Windsor MP from the NDP, Brian Masse, trying to get C-290 passed and into law. All the best with this.
MASSE: Thank you gentlemen.
MELNICK: Thank you.