Opinion: NHL, Professional sports should think twice before opposing single-event sports wagering in Canada

7 November 2012

TORONTO, Ontario -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) is wondering why the NHL and other professional leagues feel it necessary to travel to Ottawa to oppose the decriminalization of single-event sports wagering.

Bill C-290, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code -- Sports Betting to permit single-event sports wagering in Canada, passed third reading in the House of Commons with all-party support, and has been before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for the last several weeks.

"Expert witnesses have had nothing but praise for this bill," said Bill Rutsey, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. "They recognize that only a small portion ($450 million) of the $10 billion being wagered by Canadians is wagered through provincial sports lottery products, which means that Canadians are turning to offshore sports books or illegal bookmakers."

Arguments have already been made about positive impact that a sports book would have for game integrity and that allowing single-style betting would offer greater customer protections. The current law was written before the Internet existed and has not kept pace with the evolution of the sports industry, technology, or the appetite of sports bettors.

"I find it puzzling that the leagues are willing to surrender billions of dollars to criminals and allow further billions to head offshore," stated Mr. Rutsey. "This could certainly make a difference supporting programs like health care and education, and creating jobs."

But since the NHL has decided to come to Ottawa to talk about why updating an antiquated law that essentially forces Canadians to use nefarious means to bet on the outcome of a single sporting event is wrong, it might be useful in turn to examine why their position is shaky at best.

The majority of Canadian NHL team stadiums have some type of online gaming (.net) advertising on their rink boards for hockey games.
Some NHL sports teams who own their own dedicated TV sports channels accept .net gaming TV ads during their live game broadcasts.
Detroit Red Wings: Ilitch Holdings, Inc. is the holding company owned by Michael and/or Marian Ilitch. The Ilitch companies represent leading brands in the food, sports, and entertainment including the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, and the Detroit MotorCity Casino Hotel
Boston Bruins Jacobs Family -- Delaware North Companies: Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment is a gaming and racing operations company that focuses on racing venues that offer video gaming machines, poker rooms, table games, restaurants, retail shops, and hotels. The company operates more than 10,000 video gaming machines in such places as New York, Arizona, Florida and West Virginia.
Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux applied for a Pennsylvania Gaming License in partnership with a gaming company to assist in funding the Consol Energy Center. While he was not successful, the Majestic Star Casino is supporting the center at $7.5 million for 30 years.
Similarly, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers was recently denied a license to operate a casino that was to be part of the new Oilers arena.
True North Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Winnipeg Jets, receive up to $4 million annually from Video Lottery Terminals that are in the vicinity of the MTS Centre at the Tavern United Powerhouse Pub.
Since 2007 the NHL has opened the regular season with games in Europe where single-event sports wagering is legal in most all countries.

The list could go on -- all these examples and more are easy to find online, and demonstrate a close and profitable relationship between the NHL and gambling. While the CGA is always happy to have an open discussion, the association suggests that the ship has sailed on this bill and that the leagues have more important matters to deal with back home.

"We want to regulate sports wagering so that it can be controlled and monitored," Mr. Rutsey concluded. "Experts will track patterns in order to identify suspicious play, and will tip law enforcement off. You have to look no further than Europe to know how effective advanced technology has been in allowing sports federations and law enforcement agencies greater visibility on betting patterns, profiles, and fraud detection. Again I repeat -- this is not something that professional sports should be fighting."

About the Canadian Gaming Association

The fundamental goal of the Canadian Gaming Association is to create balance in the public dialogue about gaming in Canada. Our members are among the largest most established gaming operators, suppliers and gaming equipment manufacturers in Canada. Our mandate is to create a better understanding of the gaming industry through education and advocacy.

Related Links
CGA - Canadian Gaming Association Gaming Vendor Information
Canadian Gambling
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