Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Counting the losers in the government gambling blitz

The government's hypocrisy on gambling is showing again.
It's obvious that the Liberals have smashed their 2001 campaign promise to "halt the expansion of gambling that has increased gambling addiction and put new strains on families."
Instead they expanded gambling dramatically. They've done all the things they warned about as evils - adding slots, pushing them into small towns, lifting betting limits and hours, allowing alcohol and ATMS in casinos so people could make bad decisions and then get the cash to follow them up. And, on top of all that, the government launching Internet gambling.
What made it all especially offensive was that in opposition Gordon Campbell and the Liberals said they knew the consequences of gambling - debt, families in crisis, suicides, increased crime.
Even domestic violence and murder, according to Liberal Kevin Krueger.But they rushed to expand gambling anyway.
Gambling is a messy way to make money.
For one thing, those in the business don't like competition. Around the province the government has shut down people running poker tournaments in places like Legions, where people pay an entry fee and place pretend bets. All gambling is supposed to be in casinos, where gamblers can be encouraged to lose much more.
The government devotes more enforcement effort to eliminating competition than to guarding against crimes at legal gambling sites. (Which is one reason for concern over reports that people who sell lottery tickets are winning far more than their fair share of prizes. The B.C. Ombudsman's office is investigating.)
Now Liberal MLA Al Horning has admitted he took part in illegal poker games in a gambling den in his Okanagan riding.
So, what does Premier Gordon Campbell think about Horning's scorn for the gambling laws?
No problem, he told the Kelowna Courier through his spokesman. The activities were before Horning was elected in 2005 and so not relevant. If people had concerns, they should call the police.
It's not quite the moral outrage Campbell summoned up when the NDP wanted to expand gambling, but times change.
After all, the Liberals used to be big on the need for help for problem gamblers.
Now, not so much. Back in 2004, Sue Reid, a Surrey nurse with an interest in gambling issues, submitted a request for the material B.C. Lotteries used to train casino staff in dealing with distressed and problem gamblers.
It's a secret, the Crown corporation said, a pretty good warning sign that all is not right.
After a long battle, Reid, got the material. It showed that troubled gamblers usually don't get much help - at best a brochure and reference to a toll-free help line.
It confirmed casino staff often have to deal with gamblers who are angry, emotional and losing all their money. They see people making repeated trips to ATMs as they try to win back mounting losses. They even see people who wear diapers, so they won't have to give up a slot machine they think might pay off.
But 85 per cent of casino employees surveyed in 2004 - well into the gambling expansion - said it was up the gamblers to find help.
No wonder the government is finally increasing funding for gambling addicts.
Gambling is a tricky business to manage, too. You would think if the government was going to be in the business, it would be running a tight ship.
But last month Australia's biggest gambling operator and a bank based there combined to buy Gateway Casinos, which has seven casinos in B.C.
An Australian newspaper reported the bank liked the opportunity because B.C. was one of the few places in the world that offered casinos a "free ride."
"A very nice kicker to this whole transaction is a dynamic that has been set up at the government level, whereby any capital expenditure you spend on your casinos is refunded by the government," a bank spokesman said. "So there is, specific to this region of the world, a very attractive environment for a casino operator."
No wonder the Liberals used to think it was a good idea to steer clear of the gambling business.
Footnote: The financial institution, Macquarie Bank, isn't just interested in gambling in B.C. It's the owner of the Sea-to-Sky Highway project and hydro projects in the province and is interested in health-care private-public partnerships.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be nice to see what happens to casino revenues on 'welfare wednesday'? Good luck getting that info from BC Lotteries.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine myself ever entering one of those casino's but it appears a lof of folks do go.

The one not far from our place has a shuttle bus as the parking lot gets full first thing in the morning. My origonal though was, hell they will travel south so at least some of the money stays here. Never entered my mind that some folks lose a lot of money and stay till they have no credit. It must be awful fom them, and awful that our present government does it's best to make gambling so available. Who cares about the addicted ones? Nor the government for sure.It's money rolling in so lets devise a few new ways to get it

Anonymous said...

Well, when it comes close to home it is more than the sky is falling mentality. A friend has just lost his marrriage, house, and is in a deep depression because he has lost everything even though he asked to be refused by the casinos he was frequenting.And you know this government, like the casinos do not give a damn.They soaked his last penny and his life.Thanks Gordo for this pox.

Rob said...

The biggest problem in the UK with gambling (recently liberalised by the 2005 Act) is that the UK Government considers that it is only a problem for a small percentage of (addicted) people.

For the vast majority of people, the UK Government considers it is just another leisure activity that people enjoy, want to participate in and should have the freedom so to do.

But I think they are missing the main point which is that gambling affects the lives of everyone who gambles adversely with very few exceptions.

Just because it completely devastates the lives of the 3% who let it get out of control doesn't mean we should only focus on their harm.

The people who are hurt unseen are just as important and many more in number.

They buy into the false promise that they can actually win.

The more they lose, the more the gambling organisations say 'you can win, you can win'. But they can't. It's a false promise.

Sellers are normally held to account, if their products don't live up to the promises they have made.

But it's strange that governments don't apply the same rule to the promises made by gambling organisations.

Let's force the gambling operators to tell the truth.

'Winning odds 5%
Losing odds 95%' or whatever

at every point of gamble.

It wouldn't stop the addicts but it might make the world a more truthful place.

Surely that would be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

JEEZ -- people wearing diapers in casinos. The Lottery Corporations say that they are not aware that this is going on. If that is so they are the only ones that don't.
I have never visited a casino and I have heard about this practice from a number of sources. Simply put; the casinos do not want to know about problem gamblers - they bring in the most money. It is a little known fact that most casinos will even help you mortgage your house. Now who does that help?

Anonymous said...

Gambling is such a pathetic waste of time and money that it boggles my mind to think of people bothering with it. It's an example of superstition prevailing over reason - spend any time with statistics, and it becomes obvious that the house always wins over the long term. Far better to engage in stock speculation - it's another kind of betting, but at least it's possible to win something over the long term. As a libertarian, I'm reluctant to ban anything, but gambling is such a stupid, wasteful, damaging activity that I'm severely tempted to demand a ban in this case.

Anonymous said...

There must be a poll outhere somewhere about problem gamers as the province likes to call gamblers. The SG Les tells us today that somebody or other will be doing a study on of all things "Problem gamblers" dl

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