Welcome to Gambling Watch Global Community Blog,
a source for latest news, developments and reputable documentation and research on gambling. You'll find many helpful resources and links for anti-gambling advocates.
First, I need to tell you that I know far more on this subject than I ever wanted to know, and certainly more than almost anyone else would want. Hopefully, by sharing some fully researched facts on the matter, we may be able to do some good, at least, if we begin.
I just happened to retire at the time that Mike Harris wanted to reward his home town by designating North Bay as the site for a casino, one of the 44 planned for Ontario, at that time. North Bay rose up in alarm, as did many other communities. At Trinity, Rev. Kathleen McCallum said to me, “Here you go. You have time. Be our representative on the joint churches’ committee.”
Now, in a provincial election year, my strongest desire is that those standing for political office should be asked, ”Do you have an opinion on the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on alcohol and gambling advertising by a provincially controlled corporation?” Somewhere above 5 million dollars is spent daily, 2 billion dollars per year. From my perspective, this area needs re-thinking! It is something we can try to change, and it would measurably alter the amount of ongoing damage to individuals and the huge burden of health and legal costs to our economy.
Much is written about mental health concerns and addictions and lately, we had a North Bay study April 2010: “Mental Health and addiction strategy prisons.”
“61% of men have addictive behaviors; 91% of women have addictive behaviors. In addition, experts tell us that an estimated 30% to 50% (or even higher) of prisoners have fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, adding another level of need to this population. And, we all know that the risk of suicide is much higher with men who are incarcerated, particularly those who are in remand populations. “
2011 Report published “World Health Report on Alcohol“
Totally ignored in the media, our own CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) writes a letter to a Minister of the Government stating a concern that “alcohol is a factor in over 60 disabilities and diseases and, in Ontario, alcohol is the third leading contributor to the burden of illness and disease“.
To me, the tragic part is that, in Ontario, the largest suppliers and promoters of that huge cost in hurt, tragedy, family life, child poverty and human lives, is one the Ontario Crown Corporation charged with the responsibility and regulation, yet does no control of either gaming or alcohol.
CAMH tells Government that: “a 1 litre increase in alcohol consumption per adult resulted in an 8-14% increase in the drinking driver fatality rate over the same period“ (12 more a month). This is in 2005! So, in spite of World Health Organization, and all other advice, LCBO goes ahead. GO - GO - GO. Update stores. Build new stores. Provide samples. Give Air Miles. Advertise. Promote co-operation with MADD. Promote a designated driver program that then promotes 3 or more dedicated drinkers per car! (“MADD Canada estimates that approximately 73,120 of these individuals were injured in impaired driving crashes, roughly 200 per day. Note that this figure is limited to motor vehicle crashes only, 4 deaths/day”).
Speaking on behalf of the three organizations, Dr. Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “The BMA, AFS and SHAAP support the findings of the Sheffield study and, therefore, support the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol - a measure that could save more than five lives each week, preventing 261 alcohol attributable deaths each year and result in 5,000 less hospital admissions, 3,000 less crimes and more than 30,000 fewer sick days per year, once the policy has taken full effect. We urge the Scottish Parliament to support the introduction of minimum pricing in Scotland.” Source: British Medical Association : (pop of Scotland 5.1 million)
World Health Organization (Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2011) on page 37, tells us that the alcohol cost per Canadian citizen in 2007 is $420 each; and, that $96 is health costs and $119 is law and other direct costs. Other indirect costs are $206. So, Ontario costs for alcohol is $420 per year X 12 + million population…well over $5 billion (thousand million), plus advertising & promotion.
For Canada, this means I.4% of GDP = Alcohol = 13+ billion dollars/yr. Gambling would add at least 2 % which works out to 30 billion dollars.
According to the CAMH, one poor gaming problem addicted citizen costs society $56,000 per year, which works out to somewhere around $5 billion for Ontario. Suicides, we won’t mention, the LCBO and OLG don’t.
Do we add more warning labels on alcohol & gambling outlets?
Government must stop advertising entertainments that put citizens who are victims of this constant barrage of advertising and promotions, and victims of addictions in prisons or hospitals?
Social justice issue or election issue…church involvement ?
Don’t we or shouldn’t protest ?
“Do we ignore research, published in Nov 2005 in the journal Neuroscience on how problem gambling, at least from the brain’s point of view, is indistinguishable from drug addiction. Yes. Not everyone who takes drugs or gambles becomes addicted. And, while it is certain there are genetic predispositions which act at the molecular level, those have not yet been worked out.” (Toronto Star Jay Ingram… Jan 9 2005)
The article ends stating that the greatest values of this research, whether it applies to drugs or gambling (or alcohol), is it should erase forever the belief that addicts are just making bad choices. They can’t make the right choices, because their brains have been so profoundly changed by their addiction. It‘s hard for addicts to be responsible; anger is a common side affect in all withdrawal, which can explain road rage.
County Court Judge Roland Williams in Australia questioned at the time ”how a so-called civilized society can allow and offer the mindless operation of poker (slot) machines to witless members of the public under the euphemism of gaming and entertainment is no doubt a question for the sociologists of this world”.
Responsible government ?
What even makes this worse is that society and government spend huge sums to advertise and promote these forms of entertainment and then have to turn around and spend 3 times the money to treat the addiction problems they promoted.
Here are three quick links to some movement in the courts and in public education on problem gambling.
This Sunday, January 9 at 7:00 PM, CBS’ 60 Minutes will broadcast a feature segment on electronic gambling machines (i.e., video slots). Up to now, this topic has been subject of very little national media scrutiny.
How 60 Minutes will cover video slots is under wraps, but I am told by a person interviewed that it will likely center on the machines’ purposefully addictive and deceptive design. These design features explain why video slots produce 70-80 percent of the gross profits at a typical US gambling casino and cause 70-80 percent of gambling addictions.
How big is the problem of enforcement of the self-exclusion laws for problem gamblers? The Toronto Star has the story of Jordon, a gambler who put himself on the self-exclusion lists and was admitted to Ontario gambling establishments anyway. Is the OLG failing problem gamblers?
Jordan Kelman slips a $100 bill into a slot machine at the Woodbine Racetrack casino — just as he has “close to a hundred times” since being voluntarily banned from Ontario casinos in 2008.
The 28-year-old gambling addict pulls the silver arm three times. He’s risking borrowed money.
“I’m down 50 bucks,” he says, yanking it again. Four sevens. A bell rings.
“There,” he says. “I hit big there. We just won a lot of money.”
It’s a $650 victory. A week ago, Kelman blew $2,300 while sitting on the exact same chair, next to the exact same middle-aged man in a red sweater who appears catatonic as he tugs on the lever.
Since Kelman put his name on the OLG’s “self-exclusion” list — supposedly banning him from all 27 of the province’s gambling facilities — he says he’s lost close to $60,000 in those facilities.
An Ontario law firm has been able to finally get a court date for their class action suit for self-excluded gamblers.
From Fancy Barristers:
Congratulations to all.
For our part, our appeal on responsible gambling against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming was perfected and is set to be heard on April 6, 7 and 8, 2011.
…the gamblers’ claims were based on their own unique personal circumstances — so they’d have to file individual lawsuits.
Academics, law enforcement and opposition members are reacting to The Relationship Between Crime and Gaming Expenditure in Victoria. The Age:
Opposition gaming spokesman Michael O’Brien strongly criticised the Brumby government for its delay in releasing the report, which was quietly uploaded on a government website last month after the report was completed in October. It was appalling that the government had ”covered up this important research”, Mr O’Brien said.
Government spokeswoman Rebecca Harrison said the release of the report was delayed to give the authors a chance to publish their findings in peer reviewed journals first.
Canada faces the same problem of delayed and buried research which doesn’t make it into the public realm. 3 single incidences in 3 provinces were highlighted here. In Australia, police want to talk to the study authors:
Victoria Police said it planned to contact the authors of the report ”to fully understand the implications of this current research and identify future areas of research”.
The deputy chairman of the Criminal Bar Association of Victoria, Michael O’Connell, SC, said the results of the report linking gaming machine spending to crime rates ”were not surprising given anecdotal experience”.
The relationship between crime, gambling, sentencing and treatment is complex and unapplied and unavailable research does not serve the public good.
Criminologist Julian Bondy, of RMIT University, said there had been a great deal of academic research on the link between gambling and crime.
”There are all kinds of relationships that have been demonstrated - for example, a simple one is to do with localised crime rates and gambling.”
Former barrister Tim Falkiner briefed the Bar Association in 2008 on arguments that should be considered when sentencing gaming-machine problem gamblers who had committed an offence.
”Bearing in mind what we now know about gaming machines, the question must be asked why should the courts use such a clumsy, harsh, expensive and unreliable mechanism of heavy sentences and imprisonment when the government could so easily take action to make the machines safer,” he said.
Researchers in Victoria say they have found a “strong and robust” evidence of a link between spending on pokies and the incidence of “income-generating” crimes such as theft, robbery, fraud and handling stolen goods.
The findings, which have been quietly posted on the Department of Justice website, add weight to long-held assumptions about the incidence of problem gamblers turning to crime to feed their habits.
…They concluded that only drug offences had a stronger link to crime than poker machines.
The report by University of South Australia researchers, found evidence of a ”positive and significant link between gaming expenditure and crime” in Victoria across three different years - 1996, 2001 and 2006.
County Court Judge Roland Williams -
questioned at the time ”how a so-called civilised society can allow and offer the mindless operation of poker machines to witless members of the public under the euphemism of gaming and entertainment is no doubt a question for the sociologists of this world”.
7/23/2010: Buried research
It has come to my attention that 3 Canadian provinces have a problem with fully informing the public about gambling issues. One of the ways this is done is through burying or rejecting commissioned research.
In the July 19th edition of Times&Transcript, Mark Anielski writes something I find very interesting:
We tried to estimate the impact of gambling on disease rates, suicide, psychological distress, judiciary costs, substance abuse, family breakdown, depression, social isolation, loss of sense of community, and loss of quality time with family, friends and community.
…We cannot report the findings because Nova Scotia refuses to honour its contractual obligations (we’re not being paid), nor will it release our study. But it is possible, by answering a few questions, to see the impact gambling is having on the well-being of Nova Scotians - and by extension all provinces since each has grown dependent on gambling revenues, especially from VLTs - using publicly released data:
On June 4th, I attended a meeting in Toronto called by a report contributor to Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre. Unlike the Nova Scotia/Anielski situation above, the 2 researchers were paid in full and the report was present in November of 2009. However, Accountability and Social Responsibility in Ontario’s Legal Gambling Regime was not released to the public. It can be found here.
The meeting was held at the offices of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Dr. Garry Smith and Dan Rubenstein spoke to what was a small group. A Ontario Lottery Corporation representative attended and well as some CAMH staff. Media was invited but unfortunately none attended. So here are two recent reports which were not made available by provincial governments.
Last year a La Presse reporter covering a class action suit in court picked up his ears when he heard the crown citing a 2001 report authored by a man with the same name as his. Yves Boisvert had to go find this researcher who shared his name so he phoned him, introduced himself and they met for coffee.
It turns out in 2000 the Regie des Alcohol ordered a study on slot machines and compulsive consequences which Boisvert and three other researchers completed. In January 2003 the Regie announced they did not want the 2003 report and that if the authors wanted to publish it they could. They did, and there were comments which came as far away as Europe.
Nearly 6 years later researcher Yves Boisvert was called to testify by the crown. He was being asked to testify on the original rejected report. Some titles were changed, and the court submitted document had been truncated to 53 pages with negative findings left out.
Government controls information, media and the public when it buries information or selectively releases it.
This is a sin of omission which is bad for social justice and public health. Since the public pays for research, why can’t they see it?
6/25/2010: Genetics and gambling
Is there a genetic link to gambling addiction?
Are men and women equally succeptable?
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbi are trying to find out.
Safe Bet Society wants to meet with Mark Anielski, the author of a gambling impact study rejected by a former Conservative Party Committee.
Safe Bet Society says it can live with the government’s decision to not release the draft report, providing it waives contract conditions preventing it from having access to author Mark Anielski.
The report looks at the social and economic impact of gambling in the province.
Executive director Ken Hanna said Anielski likely learned things during his research that would be helpful to the Safe Bet Society’s efforts to promote responsible gambling.
The Nova Scotia government said in April that the draft study, which had been commissioned by the previous Tory government, would not be made public because there were problems with its methodology.
Former labour minister Mark Parent says he was unaware a committee had rejected an early draft of Anielski’s study.
The government paid $144,000. A Labour department spokesperson said they will abide by the contract with Anielski and will not give Safe Bet Society access.
More in The Cape Breton Post
Mark Anielski, economist and president of his family-owned corporation Anielski Management Inc. and adjunct professor of corporate social responsibility at the University of Alberta’s School of Business in Edmonton, Alberta is not happy a Nova Scotia commissioned gambling impact report was rejected.
The study had two objectives: to establish a base-line analysis of a range of social and economic impacts that can be attributed to gambling in Nova Scotia, and to present an analytical, factual and objective snap-shot of those impacts.
Our completed 323-page final draft report, called The Socio-economic Impact Study of Gambling in Nova Scotia, was delivered on June 22, 2009. However, on July 8, 2009, the steering committee overseeing the research study met in private – our research team was not invited – and decided to reject our report’s research findings, conclusions and recommendations.
We have since been accused of using faulty research methods and flawed statistics, and of focusing too narrowly on the well-being impacts of a relatively few number of Nova Scotia’s problem gamblers and on Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).
To say I was shocked that our study was dismissed so cavalierly would be an understatement because, if it had been released, it would have been the first of its kind: a comprehensive well-being impact assessment of gambling in Canada and in the world. It would also have set a new standard for accountability for both the positive and negative impacts of gambling.
Then Conservative provincial Labour Minister Mark Parent says he was surprised to read committee minutes expressing concerns about an early draft of the study:
Parent says if there were early indications that the study was flawed, he should have been kept informed.
He says he had pushed for the study and he should have been shown the committee’s findings.
A spokeswoman for the department would not comment on Parent’s remarks.
Parent says if he’d seen the minutes, he believes something could have been done to ensure the study was completed and released.
The minutes of the meeting were obtained under the FIO by The Canadian Press. Parent says he was told the study was behind schedule. The province paid 144 thousand dollars, the government still says it is flawed, but will not explain why it is flawed.
6/22/2010: Gambling’s real impact Nova Scotia
Study killed by province would help us understand how VLTs, casinos affect society, says economist who wrote report
By MARK ANIELSKI | COMMENTARY 2010-06-20
IN 2007 OUR firm, Anielski Management, won the bid to conduct a study on the impact of gambling in Nova Scotia, the first of its kind in Canada using the new national socio-economic impacts of gambling (SEIG) framework which I had just completed for all provinces. The study, commissioned by the previous Conservative government, had two objectives: to establish a baseline analysis of a range of social and economic impacts that can be attributed to gambling in Nova Scotia, and to present an objective snapshot of those impacts.
After a first draft was delivered in January 2009, our complete 323-page final draft report, called The Socio-economic Impact Study of Gambling in Nova Scotia, was delivered on June 22, 2009. On Dec. 18, 2009, one day after I invoiced the government for our research, John MacDonald, executive director of Alcohol and Gaming Division of Nova Scotia Labour and Workforce Development, notified me via email that our contract had been terminated and we would not be paid.
We received no written comments on our report and were simply told that the steering committee had lost confidence in our abilities to complete the study and claimed our report was neither factual, nor analytic nor objective. We have been accused in the press of focusing too narrowly on the problem gamblers in Nova Scotia and on VLTs.
As an economic consultant who gets hired to conduct total well-being impact assessments for public policy issues in Canada and internationally, I was shocked that our study would be dismissed without any detailed feedback or external peer review. This treatment is simply unfair — in fact, downright unprofessional.
If our study were released to Nova Scotians by their government, it would represent the most comprehensive impact assessment of gambling in the world. It uses the new Canadian SEIG analytic framework, which is also considered the new international standard for socio-economic impact assessment.
Our study examined a range of positive and negative impacts of all forms of gambling — VLTs, slots, casinos, bingo, ticket lotteries, charitable lotteries, and Internet gaming — that included financial, economic, tourism, recreation, health and well-being, crime, and community impacts. For example, we examine gambling’s impact on Nova Scotia’s financial well-being, the province’s gross domestic product, job creation, business growth, tourism, and government revenues.
We also examined any impacts gambling may have on job productivity and absenteeism, bankruptcy rates, and job losses that could be attributed to gambling in other industries. Finally, we tried to estimate the impact of gambling on disease rates, suicide, psychological distress, crime, judiciary costs, substance abuse, family breakdown, depression, and social isolation, loss of sense of community, and loss of quality time with family, friends and community.
Unfortunately we cannot report the findings of our analysis as the Nova Scotia government refuses to honour its contractual obligations nor will it release our study to the public, for reasons that have not been adequately explained.
What I intend to do, in the alternative, is paint a portrait of the impacts of gambling that we can provide to Nova Scotians from already publicly released sources and without divulging the contents of our study. There is enough publicly available information about gambling in Nova Scotia, including data used by the Nova Scotia government, Statistics Canada data, and the 2008 Nova Scotia gambling prevalence study conducted by Halifax-based Focal Research Consultants for Nova Scotia Health Promotion and Protection.
VLT REVENUE : How important is gambling revenue to the Nova Scotia government?
In fiscal year 2007-08, the last time a Nova Scotia Gaming Report was released, Nova Scotians wagered a total of $1.458 billion on all gaming (excluding First Nations VLTs). Compare this figure with the $2.168 billion in income tax revenues collected by the Nova Scotia government in 2007-08. Of the total wagered in 2007-08, the majority, or $673 million (46.2 per cent of the total) was wagered on VLTs and $489 million (33.5 per cent) at casinos, with the vast majority there on slot machines. Netting out “winnings,” the net revenues reported from all gaming (again, excluding First Nations gaming) in 2007-08 was $351.8 million. The Nova Scotia government netted $169.3 million in 2007-08 (after payouts and related operating expenditures) with 56.1 per cent coming from VLTs.
What is the most damaging form of gambling? : According to Focal Research’s 2007 study, VLTs were cited by those gamblers it surveyed as the principal source of gambling problems. In the 2007 study, they found the vast majority of problem gamblers, 67.2 per cent, are VLT problem gamblers. VLTs accounted for the overwhelming majority of adult problem gamblers (86 per cent), followed by slot machines in casinos (28 per cent) and instant lottery tickets (16 per cent). Internet gambling was only mentioned by four per cent of all those who have ever had a gambling problem.
How many problem gamblers are there in Nova Scotia? : Based on the most recent adult gambling prevalence study by Focal Research Consultants in 2007, there were an estimated 47,000 adults in Nova Scotia who were at any level of risk for problem gambling while about one-third of those (19,000 adults) were moderate problem and severe problem gamblers.
What are the known negative impacts to well-being from gambling? :
Again, Focal Research’s 2007 gambling prevalence study found that the health and well-being impacts most cited by gamblers were health problems (25 per cent), death of a significant person (20 per cent), depression (12.6 per cent), anxiety (11 per cent), loneliness (10 per cent), financial problems and debt (9.6 per cent), and relationship problems (nine per cent)
How much money is the provincial government reaping from problem gamblers? The Focal Research study estimates that each of those problem gamblers spent (or lost after prizes) $7,542 in 2007, more than the average $6,403 a typical Nova Scotia family spent on food in 2005.
If we multiplied the average problem gambler’s net loss by the 19,000 estimated problem gamblers, then the total loss by problem gamblers in 2007 is about $141.6 million. This would imply that 19,000 problem gamblers contributed an estimated 32.8 per cent to Nova Scotia’s net gaming revenues ($351.8 million) in 2007-08. This estimate compares with similar estimates for Ontario and Alberta.
Gambling researchers Robert Williams and Robert Wood at the University of Lethbridge estimated that in Ontario the 4.8 per cent of gamblers who were problem gamblers in 2007 contributed roughly 36 per cent to Ontario’s net gambling revenues. In a 2001 study for Alberta, 30.6 per cent of gambling revenues came from problem gamblers.
GETTING RID OF VLTS : What would it cost Nova Scotia economically if it were to get rid of all VLTs?
Based on net revenues to the provincial government of $94.9 million in 2007-08 from provincial VLTs (leaving First Nation VLTs aside),
the price of eliminating all provincial VLTs would amount to about $100 per person per year, the equivalent of roughly 65 Tim Horton’s cups of coffee.
Would Nova Scotians be willing to spend an extra $100 per year to eliminate all provincial government VLTs and most of the societal problems they create?
It is a question worth asking in all provinces, not just Nova Scotia.
As an economic advisor to governments across Canada, the research we did for the Nova Scotia government leads me to an inescapable conclusion.
The majority of financial impacts and negative health and social impacts are experienced by problem gamblers and are with VLTs because they are the most harmful game of chance.
I would encourage Nova Scotians to debate these issues and my preliminary analysis at your kitchen tables and community halls across your province. Conversations are game changers and they ensure you have a genuinely healthy democracy with a provincial government that is held fully accountable for the well-being impacts of its public policy decisions and directions.
Would Nova Scotians be willing to spend $100 per year to eliminate all provincial government VLTs and most of the problems they create?
Mark Anielski is an economist and a professor of corporate social responsibility at University of Alberta.
© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited
Used by permission
At first glance I nearly dismissed this article, but I like to read Jim Coyle.
Michael Bryant a wiser man after tragedy
Former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant finishes speaking to journalists at a press conference in Toronto after criminal charges against him in the death of a cyclist were withdrawn.
Michael Bryant struck a grace note this week.
If there’s a conclusion to be drawn from the former attorney general’s demeanour – after charges against him were withdrawn in the death of a cyclist on Bloor St. last summer – it’s that Bryant would probably make a better politician now than before.
Wisdom is often paid for with pain. Humility is frequently found in the recognition of how much the love, support and kindness of others matters. Mature perspective sometimes comes in the awareness of one’s own vulnerability to chance and random reckless acts.
Much nonsense has been spouted in recent days. Some have said the dropping of charges against Bryant declares open season on cyclists. Others talk of a war on cyclists. The comments are as ridiculous as they are unhelpful.
If there’s a lesson in this story, it is in the cost of untreated addiction and mental health needs
the story of a man whose pattern of conduct (if the ghastly consequence of an appallingly difficult life) pretty much assured him a date with a jail cell, or an early coffin, or as the star in someone else’s tragedy.
It’s a story about the destructive – and often self-destructive – consequences of rage. The prisons are full of people who lost it for 28 seconds, or even less.
There is more to the article but I had to stop a moment. Sometimes when I stop on this site and look back into what has already been written over the years, time stands still. Maybe 2004, an article from the Toronto Star, CAMH wrote the Ontario Minister of Health with concern for close to a half million Ontarians with brain changes caused by gambling addictions.
40 + years of community pharmacy proved that to me and Mr. Coyle states it in the article.
“The costs of untreated addiction”
CAMH writes it fairly clear:
…a half million ontarians…
Are addicted Ontarians citizens?
Are most addicted citizens also tax paying citizens?
How many committed crimes to feed their addictions?
How many addicts do we provide shelter for? (jail)
The direction I want to go is with a simple fact.
OLG spends almost a billion dollars a year promoting and advertising gambling in every form and claims that they produce a billion of dollars profit. (losses of citizens)
CAMH in Mr. Coyle’s previous article (posted at GWG 2 weeks ago) states that as many as 1 in 5, of one hundred, one thousand, 500,000 thousand Ontarians are problem gamblers - addicts -
and 20% will attempt suicide. Many others will commits other acts, just witness Mr Bryant.
It is one thing to say OLG provides entertainment, that is okay to play a little slots; sorry, but I never met a responsible addict.
But willfully messing up a lot of tax paying citizen’s brain cells, don’t you think public health should start screaming? Just a little?
We’re talking messed up genetic material in human beings, just a little.
I read where children of addicts have twice the suicide rate.
Thank you Mr Coyle and the Toronto Star