Unifor Local 444

Unifor Local 444

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Building Our Union – Strengthening Our Community


If the Liberals care about jobs, they should legalize single-game sports betting

By Jerry Dias and Dave Cassidy

For a government that wants to do anything and everything possible to secure Canadian jobs, amending legislation to allow for single-game sports betting seems like the biggest no-brainer of them all. It costs the federal government nothing; it protects consumers by channelling current unregulated gaming into a regulated environment; it channels revenue, currently leaving the country, to the provincial governments and toward government programs; and most importantly, it protects and creates jobs.

Michigan and New York are moving forward. We know exactly what happens when the U.S. casinos have an advantage. In 2006, the Smoke Free Ontario Act created an unlevel playing field. Revenue at Caesars Windsor dropped 27 per cent the next year. This is not theory or hypothetical, this is fact. The impact was immediate. With craps, it was a Liberal government, with the Hon. Herb Gray as the champion to allow craps into Canadian casinos, that moved swiftly to amend the Criminal Code to provide Caesars Windsor with a level competitive playing field with Michigan, thus avoiding a major impact. When the playing field is level, we compete.

The risk today is real. The timing is urgent. The impact of inaction is absolute, predictable and completely avoidable. People will cross the border to Michigan and New York. Windsor and Niagara will once again be impacted. All of this is avoidable and the solution is simple. The Liberal government should put an amendment to the Criminal Code into the March 19 budget. This has been done before for other Criminal Code changes and this is 100 per cent in line with the government’s message of jobs.

Sports betting in Windsor will add 150 jobs to the casino. There are over 300 gaming venues in Canada. Moving forward to regulate this industry could add 1,000 to 2,000 or more jobs across the country. This is not just a Windsor issue, this is a Canadian issue. According to Legal Sports Report, there are now over 120 sports betting bills that have been filed in more than 30 U.S. states. The border states from Washington in the west to Maine in the east have introduced legislation to regulate sports betting.

The provinces are behind this (Ontario just announced its support), the major sports leagues are behind this, Canadians are behind this. The CFL, NBA, NHL and MLS are all publicly in support of this change. According to the polling firm Ipsos, 71 per cent of Canadians are in favour of sports betting. There is no opposition here. There is also no time to make politics out of this. It is simply good public policy. There is no time to wait.

We call on the Liberal government to use the March 19 budget as an opportunity to allow for single sports betting to be regulated by the provinces, like all other forms of gaming. There are no barriers to do this and you have the country behind you. This is about jobs. This is about consumer protection; this is about ensuring that we do not simply hand our players and jobs to the U.S. The ball is in your court, Liberal government. This is an uncontested layup. Score the basket for Canadians and let’s all be the winners.

Jerry Dias is the Unifor National President and Dave Cassidy is President of Unifor Local 444, which represents casino workers in Windsor.

 

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