Liberal candidate Pupatello commits to single-sports betting if elected

Windsor West Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello appeared to have taken a page from her NDP adversary and has committed to legalizing single-sports betting if a Liberal majority is elected Oct. 21. 

Pupatello acknowledged there have been a number of attempts to legalize single-sports betting, but all have failed. The most recent was earlier this year when Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli appealed to his federal counterpart, Bill Morneau, to amend the criminal code. 

In 2011, Windsor-Tecumseh New Democratic Party MP Joe Comartin proposed eliminating the criminal ban, and his private member's bill cleared the House of Commons, but was held up in the Senate until 2015 when parliament dissolved for the next election. 

In 2016, the new-at-the-time Liberal government voted down a new private member's bill brought by Windsor West NDP MP and current candidate, Brian Masse. Last November, Masse questioned then Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland about the move. 

"Why did the Minister vote to crush bill C-221? Had 13 Cabinet Ministers voted to protect Canadian jobs and investment rather than an organized crime monopoly we would already be leveraging significant new revenues to fund infrastructure, health care and education," said Masse at the time. "Instead organized crime, offshore tax evaders and nefarious companies bask in Canadian protection."

... this would add up to 150 jobs in Windsor, with another 100 in Niagara falls. - Sandra Pupatello, Liberal party candidate for Windsor West

At her news conference Wednesday in front of the Caesars Windsor casino, Pupatello said American states are "clamouring" for single-sports betting, which she said increases the urgency for a change in Canada. 

"The Canadian Gaming Association estimates this would add up to 150 jobs in Windsor, with another 100 in Niagara Falls," said Pupatello, calculating the annual revenue for the provincial government at up to $1 billion. 

According to Pupatello, legalizing single-sports betting is about remaining "competitive," and would require a Liberal majority government to make it happen.

Pupatello is running as the Liberal candidate in Windsor West against incumbant Brian Masse of the NDP, who has championed single-sports betting. Henry Lau of the Conservative Party, Quinn Hunt of the Green Party, People's Party candidate Darryl Burrell and Marxist-Leninist Margaret Villamizar round out the ballot.

Brian Masse responds to Sandra Pupatello

Windsor West NDP candidate Brian Masse said when he tabled single-sports betting in 2016, he believed the federal government was going to pass the bill as part of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's "sunny ways."

"Trudeau and his sunny ways was supposed to be different and have more of a collaborative approach," said Masse, during a media conference Wednesday. "I was in the top of the order. This was one of the first things that was voted on in Parliament, it was one of the first things that came to the table that we were supposed to work together on."

Also present at Masse's Wednesday media conference were members of Unifor Local 444, including former president Ken Lewenza, who was active in trying to legalize single-sports betting.

Amy Dodge/CBC

"It's frustrating for our union," said Lewenza. "[The local union] and national union has spent a tremendous amount of resources in lobbying the Liberal government on multiple occasions, as recently as four months ago, to get on with this particular [issue]."  

Lewenza said the union and Brian Masse played an active role in convincing major sports leagues to support the bill. He said he won't trust that Pupatello's campaign promise will bring change for the union.

"[Liberals] had 10 years to make that decision. If they do it, it would be great for our community but can we trust them? That's the question. That's why I want Prime Minister Trudeau to say this is part of our platform. I don't need another rumour, because we always thought we were this close only to leave parliament this far apart," said Lewenza.

Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, said he's excited to hear single-sports betting has found its way to the campaign trail.

"We're thrilled that it's actually being talked about," said Burns. "We hope more candidates and all the parties will start talking about it."

Burns added that he isn't surprised this announcement was made in Windsor.

"Communities like Windsor have been strong champions," said Burns. "It is well passed time to get this done."