The report, published in November 2014, recommended “in order to control the online gambling market, protect consumers and generate revenues for the government, the best solution for the [federal] government is to establish clear rules and open up the online gambling market to private operators. In fact, the best solution is to establish an online gambling licensing system.”
This was not an isolated call-to-action motivated by vested interests. This was, and remains, the clearest analysis to date of the merits of modifying the Code to allow Canadian provinces the discretion to make their own decisions about whether it is in their best interests to ‘conduct and manage’ gaming, to license, regulate and tax the industry, or to pursue a hybrid of these two models.
The public is already well ahead of the governments which purport to safeguard their interests when it comes to their acceptance of and participation in online gambling. An April 2010 Ipsos survey found 71% of Canadians do not believe that gambling on the Internet is illegal. That same survey showed 55% of Canadians support legalizing online gaming as long as government regulation is in place.
Fortunately, we have knowledgeable and effective gambling regulatory regimes here in Canada. Our regulators have the right policies in place with respect to transparency, integrity, problem gaming, and youth prevention strategies to ensure a robust licensing regime.
It is high time to amend the Code and adopt the Nadeau Report recommendation to establish a government-controlled and regulated online gaming sector. It is time to finally delegate all gambling responsibilities to provincial governments and allow them to decide how to operate those businesses. A licensing model would maximize consumer choice; deliver enhanced consumer protections and responsible gaming measures. A well regulated online gaming marketplace would also encourage investment in R&D and infrastructure, and increase government revenues through a tax regime.
Having worked as a political staffer, a regulator, and consultant to industry over the past two decades, I am well aware that changing the Criminal Code will not be easy, but it is entirely necessary. It is the right public policy for Canada, and the only long-term, sustainable solution to the ever-evolving public appetite for sports wagering and digital based gaming products and the technology that enables them.
Troy Ross is the President of TRM Public Affairs, a consulting firm specializing in the gaming industry in Canada. Troy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.