Paul Burns, the Vice President of the Canadian Gaming Association, recently commented on the landscape of the Canadian online gaming scene, including online poker and casino games.
Interviewed by Covers.com’s Larry Josephson while in Las Vegas for the iGaming North America convention at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino, Burns – who served on several discussion panels during the conference – first commented on the recent travails of Americans following the “Black Friday” actions of three weeks ago. “Certainly the United States has its issues,” Burns is quoted by Covers.com. Although the legal situation in Canada seems much more settled than that in the U. S., Burns states there are comparable problems. “In Canada we may approach things a little differently, but that’s not to say the issues don’t exist,” Burns says.
There are a multitude of laws on the books in Canada for gambling, but Burns points out that there are several segments of the Canadian gaming culture to consider. There are province run casinos, Indian gaming operations, lotteries, sports betting and, now coming into the mix, online poker and casino gaming. Laws differ between provinces, which makes it difficult to enact a comprehensive law for Canada as a nation.
“There is a lot of money at stake,” Burns said to Covers.com, “and all the provinces want a piece of the action as the online industry evolves. But because the provinces are pretty much free to deal with the issues in any ways that best suits them, there is not likely to be one policy governing gambling in Canada.”
While online poker is at the forefront of the minds of many Canadians, Burns points out that there are issues with sports betting. Current laws only allow for three team parlays for sports action instead of what might be more lucrative single game betting options. Burns believes that offering single game betting options would allow for Canadian casinos close to the border of the United States to compete on a more level playing field.
Many Canadian officials believe that online poker and other online casino games do not have the safeguards in place to prevent segments of society from taking part in the action. Burns believe that the industry has enough security in place to ensure that this isn’t an issue, however. “Everyone knows the technology exists to make it safe from problem gamblers, from children, and how to make sure players are not getting cheated, and not cheating the companies,” said Burns. “But like the United States, Canada has a hole in its framework and we need to come together to figure out what’s right, especially when it comes to the online segment.”
The recent elections in Canada could have an effect on further legislation regarding gaming in Canada, in particular online poker. With the Conservative Party sweeping up 167 seats in Parliament and a new Prime Minister in Stephen Harper, there are concerns that gaming legislation may slow down. “I don’t think you’ll see much happening this year,” Burns admits to Covers.com, “but perhaps by 2013 there could be some movement.”
The most important thing when it comes to potential online poker and gaming regulation is getting the parties involved in the decision making process to the legislative tables. “At one of the first conferences we had, two of the people there were the directors of lotteries in adjoining provinces,” Covers.com quotes Burns. “They had never even met each other. Fortunately things have changed a lot, but there is still more change that’s necessary. It will come. Perhaps not at the pace many of us want. But it will come.”
By EARL BURTON