Good afternoon Madam Chair, and Members of the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights. Thank you for inviting BCLC to provide our perspective on Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act.
My name is Stewart Groumoutis, and I’m BCLC’s Director of eGaming Operations – my colleague with me in virtual attendance is Dr. Jamie Wiebe, Director of Player Health.
We are pleased to speak to the Committee today as you consider this Bill to modernize the law in Canada so that sports bettors can finally legally access single-event betting in their own country – as well as all the benefits and safeguards that come with it.
To provide some background on BCLC, we conduct and manage commercial gambling in a socially responsible manner on behalf of the Province of B.C.
This includes 16 casinos, 17 community gaming centres, 35-hundred lottery retail and hospitality locations, and PlayNow.com, which is B.C.’s only regulated gambling website and currently captures about two-thirds of B.C.’s total online gambling market.
Since 1985, approximately $25 billion from BCLC’s revenue has gone back to the Province of B.C. to support important societal investments like healthcare, education and community programs.
Like previous speakers, we believe single-event sports betting is long overdue. And we believe we can offer this product while protecting the health and safety of our players.
We know B.C. players already make these bets, either south of the border in Washington State casinos or on unregulated off-shore websites – neither of which provide revenue, nor jobs, that support British Columbia.
Grey-market websites in particular are operating illegally in Canada, do not operate within a regulatory framework, putting players at risk with little to no player health safeguards. It is our estimation that BCLC has lost as $250 million in additional revenue over the last five years to grey-market websites because we’re unable to offer single-event betting, as well as betting on UFC, MMA and Boxing.
We’re asking for a level playing field, to have the opportunity to offer single-event sports bets in a way that benefits our province and our players within a regulated environment with player health, integrity and security safeguards.
BCLC could first implement single-event betting on PlayNow.com, creating a suite of new sports-betting opportunities that players currently access on grey-market websites.
In the long term, at land-based casinos and community gaming centres, we’re ready to work with our industry, regulator and government partners to introduce licensed sportsbooks in key markets.
We’d also consider enhanced sports-betting offerings at hospitality locations, offering a much-needed economic boost to B.C. bars and pubs.
Combined across these channels of our business, we estimate legalized single-event sports betting will drive an incremental $125 to $175 million dollars in revenue in B.C. alone.
While this is a significant opportunity for our players and our province, we acknowledge that legalized single-event sports betting creates responsibility to enhance the robust player health safeguards we have in place.
We can tell you that providing the best player experience possible – while supporting the health and wellbeing of our players by reducing gambling-related harms – is at the forefront of how we work.
In fact, our goal is that no one is harmed from gambling offered by BCLC, and we’re working towards this by not only encouraging healthy play, but by making our products, environments and services safer for our players.
One way we do this is through player research to gain deeper understanding of risks, current interventions, and safeguards – and evidence of their effectiveness.
Another way we do it is through our GameSense Advisors, who are dedicated player-health specialists available to support players with informed decision making and healthy play, or refer them to treatment and support when needed.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and with B.C. casinos currently closed, we enhanced these supports and have GameSense Advisors available via telephone and online chat on PlayNow.com.
In fact, PlayNow.com is the only online gambling website in North America and one of the few in the world with dedicated player-health specialists to support players or refer them to treatment and support services, if needed.
You’ll also recall from a previous speaker Mr. Zane Hansen from SIGA that our GameSense program is used widely by our provincial counterparts in Saskatchewan. It’s also licensed in Alberta, Manitoba, and several jurisdictions in the United States, including at all MGM Resort facilities. This means they have access to much-needed resources and tools to support healthy play.
For our commitment to continuous improvement and evidence-based approach to programming, BCLC received the highest level of certification -- for the fourth time in a row – from the World Lottery Association for excellence in responsible-gambling programming.
If Bill C-218 is passed, BCLC and our Canadian regulated counterparts are well positioned to offer single-event sports bets to players in a safe and responsible way.
As someone who has been with BCLC for more than ten years, I know firsthand about the investments we have made in player health, the terrific player experience we currently offer and how much better it could be with single-event betting. I believe this is something our country is ready for.
That’s why we’re urging you and your colleagues to work collaboratively to bring single-event sports betting to reality for the benefit of Canadian players – and provinces.
Delivered to Canada's Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights on March 9, 2021 by BCLC’s eGaming Director of Operations Stewart Groumoutis and BCLC’s Director of Player Health Dr. Jamie Wiebe