Gambling addicts, senators oppose single sports betting

Not everyone wants single sports betting approved in Canada.

Debora Deschamps has a gambling addiction. She's dead set against any new forms of gaming.

"More gambling is just another problem," Deschamps said.

Bill C-290 would allow gamblers to bet on one sporting event at a time, rather than a minimum of three, which is the currently the case in Ontario.

The bill is undergoing second reading in the Senate, where it's being met with serious resistance.

"Keep on resisting this. Throw it right out. Don’t even consider it," Deschamps said

Deschamps knew she had a problem 10 years ago. She had separated from her husband and spent all her free time at Caesars Windsor.

"I ended up losing most of the money I earned, all my RSPs. I ended up going bankrupt - $30,000," Deschamps said.

She said she charged "credit card after credit card."

Deschamps said she was addicted to slot machines. However, she said family members would be enticed by sports betting.

Stephen Kerr, social work therapist, said "all solutions create new problems, but we must strive for solutions in any event."

"Since I've been in practice for 20 years, I've known people gainfully employed at the casino but I've also known people who have lost their houses to gambling there," he said.

Tuesday, a group of chambers of commerce sent a letter to Canada's senators, urging them to approve the bill.

"One always has to be mindful of that but again it's a very small percentage and there are programs in place," said Matt Marchand, president of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. "There is $14 billion of illegal gambling going on right now. It's better to have that gambling legal, safe and in a controlled environment."

Marchand and his fellow chamber presidents stressed in their letter "the importance of passing Bill C-290 ... for our economy."

"I don’t think it’s worth it. It will hook a lot more people. I’m totally against. I wish casinos, bingos were banned, gone. It’s horrible," Deschamps said.

The CAW, which represents workers at Caesars Windsor support the bill, saying it will create jobs. Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse also supports the bill.

"We need a new product in Windsor to compete against the high dollar. This would be a new product that would be very well received in Windsor, Niagara Falls and other border cities," he said.

"Where is the city improving from it? I’d like to see it on paper. Why would [the city] improve with sports gambling?" Deschamps asked.

During debate on Feb. 12, Senator Linda Frum called the bill "reckless."

"To enact a bill that will have, in the estimation of the [professional sports] leagues, a seriously deleterious effect on them, without having consulted them first, would be akin to renegotiating NAFTA without first consulting the auto industry," Frum said. "It was only when the Senate legal committee began studying Bill C-290 in a rigorous fashion, which included not only reaching out to the important stakeholders mentioned above but also to experts in the fields of addiction and mental health, that the recklessness that is Bill C-290 became fully exposed."

Earlier this year, three former Toronto mayors wrote that city's current city council to voice their opposition of a casino in Ontario's capital.

"In fact, extensive research in the U.S., carried out by Earl Grinols, professor of economics at Baylor University, indicates that for every $1 in benefit, there is a cost of at least $3. These costs are reflected in infrastructure costs, higher regulatory expenses, additional policing and criminal justice costs, and larger social welfare expenditures," wrote David Crombie, John Sewell and Art Eggleton.

"A Canadian study by the RCMP in British Columbia has also linked increased crime to casino gambling, noting that 'members of organized crime also use casinos for criminal purposes such as loan-sharking and money laundering,'" they added.

According Chris Shaw, an investigator with the illegal gaming enforcement unit at Windsor police, illegal gambling or gaming is more prevalent in larger communities. He said it exists in Windsor, but it's not a huge problem. There have been no illegal gambling related charges in the recent past in Windsor.

Earlier this year, police across Ontario broke up at least 10 illegal Super Bowl gambling rings.

The biggest happened at a banquet hall in Markham, Ont., where police say more than 2,000 present. Many, police said, were involved in an alleged multimillion-dollar illegal gaming operation.

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