According to a new poll, most Canadians do not want gambling to be expanded. The results of an Angus Reid poll released on Oct. 13 found that only 9 per cent of Canadians wish for government to be more involved in gambling, while 38 per cent want the government to play a lesser role and 63 per cent still believe that there is a net benefit to the provinces having a stake in the gambling industry.
According to the poll, many people also want access to Video Lottery Terminals to be more restricted, with 62 per cent stating that VLTs should only be in special venues such as casinos or race tracks.
Nearly half, 47 per cent, of Canadians do not believe that their province is doing enough to address problem gambling. Among the provinces, Manitoba rakes in the most revenues from its involvement in gambling, with 5.75 per cent of provincial revenue generated by gaming in 2013-2014. Gambling is responsible for 4.05 per cent of Ontario’s provincial revenue. The Maritime provinces earn the least, with gaming accounting for 2.84 per cent of revenue.
There have been recent efforts to further expand gambling in the country. The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (Bill C-221), a private members’ bill tabled by Brian Masse, the NDP MP for Windsor West, would have allowed provinces to permit betting on single sporting events. Currently, people can only bet on multiple events at once. For instance, in Ontario, gamblers must correctly bet on a minimum of three games to win. The bill was defeated in a 156-133 vote on Sept. 21, with the Liberal Party opposing the proposition.
The Liberal government of Ontario, however, has been making efforts to keep its involvement in the province’s gaming industry. On Sept. 23, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced that plans to privatize the province’s lottery business were being scrapped. A written directive by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to Finance Minister Charles Sousa instructs him to supervise “the modernization of Ontario’s gaming marketplace to provide more choice and convenience for customers while maintaining a strong commitment to social responsibility.” According to a report from the Toronto Star, the province hopes to increase revenue by $900 million by providing gambling opportunities on the web and on smartphones to attract younger gamers.
According to a 2012 study from the University of Lethbridge prepared for the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care titled the Population Prevalence of Problem Gambling, it is estimated that about 2.4 per cent of Canadians are problem gamblers. The Angus Reid poll shows that one in four Canadians either have a close friend or relative or are themselves suffering from addiction to gambling, and 17 per cent of Canadians reported that the problem gambler suffered a “significant economic loss.”
Some studies have also investigated problem gambling in individual provinces. According to a September 2016 article in the Windsor Star, research from the Ontario Responsible Gaming Council shows that 3.4 per cent of Ontario residents have a “moderate to severe gambling problem.” In British Columbia, the 2014 Problem Gambling Prevalence Study identified that 3.3 per cent of the province’s population were problem gamblers, but that the rate was as high as 7.3 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds.