BY BRIAN CROSS, THE WINDSOR STAR MARCH 9, 2011
“Many, many” U.S. customers would return to Caesars Windsor if it could offer Las Vegas-style sports betting, says CAW Local 444 president Rick Laporte.
That’s a big reason why the CAW, gaming industry officials, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and MP Joe Comartin (NDP -WindsorTecumseh) have been asking the federal Minister of Justice for Criminal Code changes to allow single-sport wagering. Currently, you have to bet on at least two sports events in casinos, and at least three in the province’s Pro-Line lottery, based on a mid-1900s restriction that may have been introduced to address fixed boxing matches.
The rule is holding back the casino’s sports lounge, said Laporte. “It’s nothing like the Las Vegas setting.”
“It’s just silly,” said Comartin. “It’s a silly restriction when you can bet on five events but you can’t bet on one.”
Three weeks ago, Comartin tabled a private members bill to allow single-sport betting, after spending three years trying persuade the government to make the change on its own. Comartin said he talked several times to Justice Minister Bob Nicholson, whose riding is in Ontario’s other border casino town, Niagara Falls. The Canadian Gaming Association, representing casinos and gaming suppliers, has also been lobbying. Duncan (L -Windsor-Tecumseh) has sent Nicholson two letters, and Comartin said he’s heard no one on the government side say anything against single-sport betting. He has no idea why all the lobbying has fallen on deaf ears. “We just can’t figure it out.”
Pamela Stephens, a spokesman for the Justice Minister, refused to discuss the matter Tuesday. She said the government only considers private member’s bills once they come up for debate, and that will take some time for Comartin’s. It sits at 177th on the list.
Canadian Gaming Association vice-president Paul Burns said “we’ve had no resistance from MP, in all parties, when we’ve made the rounds,” and yet there’s been no movement by the government.
He also believes Vegas sports betting would bring back people to border casinos. Though sports lounges don’t make a lot of money (Vegas sports operations make a profit of roughly five per cent), they are an attraction that brings people in, to bet on other casino games, book hotel rooms and spend on food and drink. And it’s a feature not available in Michigan and New York state casinos. The only place in the U.S. where it’s legal is Nevada.
“The Windsor-Detroit gaming market is still a billion-dollar market, but a lot of sits on the Detroit side now, whereas all of it used to sit on the Windsor side,” said Burns.
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