Monday, October 17, 2011

Gambling app and Clark's 'creeping sickness'

Christy Clark used to be clear on gambling expansion. She was against it. The Liberals, and Clark, promised to halt gambling expansion in their 2001 campaign.
Now her government is continuing a 10-year effort to increase both the number of people gambling and the already large amounts they lose.
The B.C. government already has the dubious distinction of being the first in North America to introduce online betting, a form of gambling with heightened risk of reckless betting and addiction.
Now B.C. Lotteries plans another first, by developing apps for cellphones and other devices so people can lose money while on the move.
What's wrong with that, some would ask? If people are foolish enough to lose money on bets, that's their problem.
In opposition, Clark offered pointed responses to that position.
The NDP government was considering gambling expansion to increase its take, then about $270 million.
Today, it's $1.1 billion.
"Does this government not realize that every dollar that they pull from the economy is another dollar that the consumer won't be spending here in British Columbia?" Clark asked. "This is money that won't be going to your local grocery store, clothing store or gas station."
OK, times change and new information emerges. A politician's principled stand in opposition fades when it's time to find more revenue to balance the budget. Clark might have decided that, indirectly, the losses stay in the province, even if local businesses are hurt.
But some flip-flops are hard to rationalize.
Here's Clark, again in the legislature, on the extensive research showing gambling expansion would hurt women and families.
"Those studies are all there that tell us over and over again that expanding gambling has a deleterious effect on women's health, on their personal safety and on their economic stability," she said. "Based on those studies, we know that."
Clark was right then. And the research findings haven't changed.
It's hard to rationalize choosing to harm the health and safety of women, and thus their children, in pursuit of bigger gambling profits.
Maybe Clark didn't believe any of the stuff she said; that it was just political posturing. But she and the Liberals seemed sincere. Certainly the campaign promise to halt gambling expansion was clear.
The government tried to justify online betting by arguing people would do it anyway, gambling on riskier websites outside B.C. That was a dubious claim; the fact those sites are risky deterred people.
There's no similar justification for introducing mobile gambling. The industry is in its infancy, with limited acceptance. The greatest interest is in jurisdictions where many people have cellphones and few have computer access.
But mobile gambling will help lure new, young gamblers. B.C. Lotteries, in its government-approved business plan, has targets for increasing the number of British Columbians who gamble regularly.
In 2010-11, about 61 per cent of adults - some 2.3 million British Columbians - gambled at least once a month. By 2013-14, the government hopes to increase that to 63 per cent, creating another 182,000 gamblers.
(The average loss per person, over a year, is $890. Somewhere between three and six per cent will become problem gamblers or addicts.)
Colin Campbell, gaming policy expert at Douglas College in Vancouver, called the plan "a deliberate attempt to target the youth market."
The lottery corporation has been advertising on websites offering free games widely used by the same group.
So much for families first, and Clark's view that gambling expansion is "a creeping sickness."
Footnote: Mobile gambling, like online betting, poses special risks, according to David Hodgins, head of the University of Calgary's Addictive Behaviours Laboratory. There is a greater risk of addiction, in part because of the easy access at any time, and a greater incidence of alcohol and drug abuse among online problem gamblers.
Teens seemed to show the highest likelihood for online gambling addictions. And the spread of Internet and mobile gambling continues the process of normalizing and legitimizing an activity that was once considered negative and damaging.


Anonymous said...

Good grief, is there no issue where Christy Clark is not proving to be hypocritical?
After listening to her radio show I had hoped that she would have learned something about how BC citizens feel about issues. If she did, she left it all behind her.

I cannot fathom how politicians are so easily sucked into the political grinder and fail to live up to their best intentions.

Norm Farrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm Farrell said...

Paul, I'd love to see you do an extended piece on why politicians so often lose their way. When I look back at the Liberals 2001 election platform, it still appeals to me greatly. However, if one measures performance against promise, there is a near complete disconnect.

Clark understood how to sound reasonable and principled but today evidence of her hypocrisy abounds.

Do people like those in the BC Liberal Party not believe what they promise to begin with or do events change their opinions and attitudes after taking office. Is there something wrong with the political culture they enter? Apparently, politicians make promises without feeling very obliged by the statements. That is a different ethic than that taught most of us.

paul said...

It is a good topic, and I'll try to write about it. I don't really understand what happens to people who are elected because they're respected in their communities, sensible, able to reach consensus, and then abandon common sense when they get to the legislature.
There was a hint yesterday, in QP, when Carole James asked Christy Clark a CLBC question.
Clark said the NDP was being negative, and added:
“And you know what? “I don’t necessarily begrudge them that. I used to sit as children and families critic. I know the game the member is playing.”
I didn’t realize Clark was playing a game back then, as I watched the debates. I thought the lives of children at risk were important enough that MLAs would be serious and honest.

Anonymous said...

I didn’t realize Clark was playing a game back then, as I watched the debates. I thought the lives of children at risk were important enough that MLAs would be serious and honest.

She sure had me fooled, I expected that she was ethical and believed in what she stated that she believed. So I guess this is all drama and politics too? If she wasn't sincere then she certainly isn't sincere now.

I am always curious why a politician when faced with an embarrassing situation (CLBC), where the government has been caught out(by families in this case), responds by doubling down. This never helps and always guarantees more embarrassment and epic fail. It must be the bubble they create for themselves that ends up trapping them.

One would think their own advisers would send out cautionary words telling them the ice is rapidly getting thinner. Maybe they are warned and have lost the ability to listen.

Norm Farrell said...

Powerful observation IMO, Paul.

Beau said...

Great article in the Colonist today, Paul.