Gambling advocates point to Super Bowl bust in argument for lax laws

Matthew Coutts
National Affairs Reporter
Daily Brew
A look inside Le Parc banquet hall in Markham, Ont., where police broke up what they say was an illegal Super Bowl gambling party run by organized crime.

In a bid to have gambling laws relaxed in Canada, a gaming advocacy group is claiming the existence of organized crime is all the proof it needs that single-game sports betting should be legalized.

The Canadian Gaming Association released a statement on Tuesday saying a massive gambling ring bust that took place in Markham, Ont., during the Super Bowl underlines the need for the Senate to pass Bill C290 — which would legalize single-game sports betting.

"What we now have learned is that this party was just one part of a sophisticated organized crime operation taking millions of dollars in sports wagers, the proceeds of which are used to fund other illegal operations of organized crime" CEO Bill Rutsey said in the statement.

[ Related: B.C. gambling addicts to sue lottery after being denied winnings ]

Bill C290, currently before the Senate, would legalize single-game betting in Canada. At the moment, government-run agencies require bettors to make parlay wagers — in which you need to predict the outcome of several games in order to win.

It is believed that parlay betting is less likely to affect the integrity of professional sports. The Canadian Gaming Association says all it is doing is driving billions of dollars toward “illegal bookmakers or offshore operators.”

[ Related: Senate rejection of gambling bill not likely to affect gamblers ]

This brings us to Markham, where police busted a Super Bowl party with alleged connections to the mob. The National Post reports that police believe an illegal gambling ring was running at the party, allegedly organized by Platinum Sports Book.

The Post's Adrian Humphreys writes of the bust:

Many of the area’s prominent bookies were present. Some people in the large crowd were wearing Hells Angels support T-shirts and others present have links to the Mafia.

This is the horse to which the Canadian Gaming Association has hitched its cart. Their presumption is that had those hundreds of privately-invited sports fans been able to gamble legally, they would not have attended a Super Bowl blowout party.

Or if they had attended the party, nothing improper would have happened and an RCMP-led raid team would have either stayed at home or found nothing upon their arrival.

The argument for changes to Canada’s gambling laws is strong enough without making this leap. And I’d wager it doesn’t help their case.