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Efforts to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada gained some momentum late last week, as a Canadian Senate Committee supported a bill set to do just that – and doing so without making any changes or additions.
Stav Nitka, Communications Officer for the Canadian Senate, told Casino.org that the Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce passed C-218, a bill sponsored by MP Kevin Waugh (Conservative-Saskatoon-Grasswood). The committee met Friday to take testimony on the bill, doing so in open session for more than an hour and a half before entering into confidential discussions.
“The committee intends to report Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting) to the Senate on Tuesday, June 8th, without amendment,” Nitka said in an emailed statement. “Any observations by the committee regarding this bill will be made public at that time.”
The Senate is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 2 pm ET.
The Order of Business for Tuesday’s session, however, did not have Waugh’s bill listed as of Monday night. While the Senate’s website said the agenda is published every day in advance, it’s uncertain if there can be any changes made on Tuesday.
Time Running Out in Canada?
Time is considered of the essence for the bill. The Senate is expected to adjourn no later than June 25, and possibly June 23, for a summer recess. Many expect a special election to be called before the Senate reconvenes in late September.
If the election is called before the Senate passes the bill, it would mean the bill would have to be refiled when the new Parliament meets. That would push its passage to next year.
Nitka said that once the committee report on C-218 is brought to the Senate, it would be up to the members to determine when to debate the bill and for how long before setting a vote.
Sports betting is currently legal in Canada, but legal commercial outlets can only offer parlay betting, which means bettors must wager on multiple games.
The single-game sports betting bill has a lot of proponents, including such major professional sports leagues as the Canadian Football League and the NHL. The bill would allow the country’s provinces to approve sports betting and issue licenses to operators.
Tribal Nation Wants Sports Betting Bill Amended
However, one group that’s opposing the bill in its current form is the Mohawk Council of the Kahnawake. The Kahnawake is one of the First Nations, or Canadian indigenous tribes. The tribe currently offers gaming, including online single-game sports betting.
Tribal leaders have called for an amendment to allow First Nations to continue operating sports betting without provincial approval. So far, that amendment has not been approved.
However, there was a discussion of the amendment during Friday’s committee meeting. And it just so happened to be the discussion taking place before members went into private discussions and subsequently continued there.
“To make an amendment now would kill that bill,” Sen. Marty Klyne (PSC-Saskatchewan) told his colleagues, referring to the process that would require the House of Commons to consider the changes.
In a statement, the Kahnawake said it took umbrage at the committee’s conversation, which at least some members thought was happening private, but were broadcast online through the government’s website. The tribal nation said talk of non-binding language was “condescending” toward it.
It is crystal clear that the Senators in question had paid mere lip service to the parliamentary equivalent of a fixed sporting event: the outcome of C-218 had already been decided, and they had to go away from the glare of the cameras to hide their hypocrisy,” the Kahnawake said in the statement.
Committee Chairman Howard Weston (ISG-Ontario) said before going offline that he felt that the discussion that took place in public was fine, but that it was “appropriate and acceptable” to talk privately at that time.
Nitka told Casino.org that any observations made by the committee would become public once the committee reported the bill to the Senate.
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