Friday, October 09, 2009

B.C. expands gambling, cuts prevention and support

The Liberal government's gambling addiction is spinning out  of control.
It's still expanding betting in the province, looking for ways to  increase the number of gamblers and the average amount each one loses  in a week.
At the same time, it's slashing the money for problem gambling  prevention and treatment by 34 per cent this year. B.C. will spend  $4.6 million. Ontario, with three times the population, will spends  nine times as much.
Up to the point that they go broke, kill themselves or get arrested  for embezzling, problem gamblers are great customers for B.C. Lotteries. The corporation's financial targets for this year include the goal of  an average $740 loss from everyone who plays Bingo, buys lottery  tickets or goes to casinos.
Most people who buy a few lottery tickets don't let things get that  out of hand. The corporation needs big losers to hit that goal. And  problem gamblers are big losers.
The Globe and Mail has done an excellent series on. It used freedom of  information requests to get data from the B.C. Gold Players Card,  which the Crown corporation uses to identify and reward big losers.  Gamblers use the card in casinos and the corporation gets huge amounts  of information on where they bet, how much and their losses. It can  offer the big losers benefits to keep them coming back. And boy, there are big losers. Ten B.C. gamblers posted combined  losses of $11.7 million in a year. Eight lost more than $1 million. To make the top 100 losers, you would have to drop $270,000 - that's  $5,000 a week for an entire year. (B.C. Lotteries says it's possible  the losses are overstated; maybe you would only have to lose $4,000 a  week to make the club.)
So there are at least 100 people with a gambling habit costing them  between $5,000 and $35,000 a week.
Which is fine with B.C. Lotteries.
"Those individuals are clearly able to make that kind of expenditure  without an impact on their economic security," corporation  vice-president Kevin Gass said. "I think that's really the way that  one has to look at it, and I think it's dangerous to try to guess or  judge based on that level of expenditure." Here's a useful rule. Anytime some says "clearly," they're about to  make a claim that can't be supported. (And anytime someone says  "frankly"? they're about to try and dupe you.) B.C. Lotteries has no way of knowing whether these people can afford  to gamble away this money, or whether they are being destroyed by an  addiction. One gambler spent an average 26 hours a week over the  course of year, losing $100 an hour.
The corporation's interest is in increasing losses by British  Columbians so it can deliver its commitment to the government. And the  government is keen to support the corporation in achieving its goals. As the government cuts funding to prevent problem gambling and help  those whose lives are being destroyed, it is about to become the first  jurisdiction in North America to launch online casino gambling. The government's own responsible gambling website notes Internet  betting involves risks of addiction and big losses. People can be  hooked; they can be drunk or stoned or desperate. And they can go for  hours, chasing their losses.
The government increased the limit on weekly losses from $120 to  $9,999. (That's $1 below the amount that requires reporting of  suspicious transactions to the federal government to fight money  laundering.)
You can make an argument for government gambling as an alternative to  illegal operations.
But in B.C., the goal is to grab cash from citizens by enticing them  to lose more.
Gordon Campbell and the Liberals used to think it was wrong to create  a province of losers and contribute to crime and family breakdown. Now, they care more about the money.
Footnote: The Liberals ran in 2001 on a promise to halt the expansion  of gambling. Since then, they have quadrupled the number of slot  machines or VLTs, doubled the money they take from losers, allowed  alcohol to be served to be gamblers and gone online. The number of  people with severe gambling problems doubled between 2002 and 2007,  according to the government's data.


Anonymous said...

I always wondered why Campbell prefaces nearly everything he ever says with a "quite frankly". I should have known.


DPL said...

Gordo needs money to pay his big support guys and of course for the circus. So if he can get the gamblers to shell out more, I rather doubt he cares about the results to those compulsive folk.

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