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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government intends to defeat an NDP private member’s bill to legalize single-event sports betting for Canadians.

They'll be making a big mistake if they reject the bill. They will fuel illegal sports betting operations run by organized crime.

Without government regulation, gamblers will not have the responsible gambling protections afforded by legalized sports betting.

Illegal sports betting also exposes young people to similar risks.

Finally, the Liberals will be killing an economic advantage our border casinos could have over competitive American casinos.

In the process, we will lose out on hundreds of new jobs that would otherwise be created.

(Disclosure: I currently have no clients with a financial interest in the passage of this legislation.)

In Canada, the Criminal Code today only permits wagering on the outcome of two or more sporting events. You can’t bet on just one event, which is the most popular way to bet on sports.

The Canadian Gaming Association says, “Canadians are wagering about $10 billion annually through illegal bookmaking operations in Canada, usually operated by organized crime operations.”

They estimate “an additional $4 billion is wagered through offshore online sports wagering sites.”

These bets are made without any consumer protection, responsible gaming safeguards or the collection of taxes.

In 2012, the NDP sponsored a private member’s bill to allow single sport gambling in Canada. Despite the fact it was approved by all political parties and supported by the nine Canadian provinces with casinos, the Senate stalled the legislation until the 2015 general election was called, which killed the bill.

This spring, the NDP re-introduced the bill and asked that it be sent to the Commons justice committee for research and consultation.

It was debated in Parliament last Thursday night and was scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, except the House has risen for summer break. The Liberals are now poised to defeat it next September before the justice committee can consider the pros and cons of the legislation.

The reason is that a number of Liberals now oppose the bill. They say they don’t believe that problem gambling, or illegal sports betting, will be deterred by legalizing single sports betting and that major sports leagues are opposed to the proposed law.

These are lame excuses. Problem gamblers can only be helped through a strong, regulated gambling system that provides resources to help them deal with their addiction. This legislation does that.

Illegal sports betting thrives because people do not have any alternative. Canadians will change their behaviour over time if given a legal alternative to illegal gambling sites.

If the Liberals can make this argument about pot – that legalization and regulation prevents abuse and keeps it out of the hands of young people - then the same should apply to legalized single sport gambling.

Finally, as the NHL is about to announce a new franchise for Las Vegas – a city with legal and regulated single event sports wagering – Liberal opposition to the bill is particularly absurd.

The NBA, Canadian Soccer Association and the International Olympic Committee have all supported regulated sports betting because it helps ensure the integrity of the sport.

For the safety of problem gamblers and for the economic development of our casino communities, I hope the Liberals will have a change of heart over the summer and support the NDP’s Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.

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