Gambling in Canada is big business. Statistics Canada reports that gambling brought in over $13 billion in revenue in 2008.1 The decisions of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces to allow government-sanctioned online gambling are a sign that governments still want more.
Those in favour of this progression argue that “problem gamblers” are just a trifle in the context of the expected profits. A 2009 report found that 3.2 per cent of Canadian adults are either moderate or severe problem gamblers.2 According to Statistics Canada, this represents approximately 828,000 individuals 19 and over.3 When we acknowledge that each one of those problem gamblers has a family we begin to see the social costs associated with problem gambling. In short, government sanctioned gambling in Canada is causing problems as governments chase after increasing revenue.
The purpose of this paper is to bring to light the negative effects of gambling on the families of Canadian problem gamblers. One province-wide study in Nova Scotia attempting to track social and economic costs of gambling was shelved by the government for unclear reasons.4 Further research is required to conduct a comprehensive analysis of gambling in Canada.
- Government should remove itself from the gambling business Gambling in Canada causes damage to a large number of people, such that government provision of gambling for non-problem gamblers is not worth the financial and social cost to our country. In particular, those living in poverty cannot afford the “gambling tax” government takes from them.
- Separate profit maximization and responsible gambling initiatives Wherever provincial gambling authorities mandated to increase revenue are involved in promoting “responsible gambling,” there is a strong conflict of interest. Where profit maximization and responsible gambling initiatives are united under the provincial gambling authority, they must be operated independently. Responsible gambling initiatives should be funded through gambling profits, but operated independently of the gambling industry’s influence.
- Halt gambling expansion Governments know that the main way to increase profits is to create more, new ways to gamble. Governments considering legalization of online gambling and those operating online gambling sites should stop.