OUR VIEW: Don’t forget problem gamblers

A proposal for a casino is once again before city council and one of the selling points is increased dollars for city coffers.

Dan Norton, who recently made a presentation to council, says that there is currently $4 million going from the city to the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) through lottery ticket sales and a casino could keep some of that money in the city.

The proposal is far from being a reality and members of council want the proponents (Norton and Associates) to put together a plan. It would be unwise to comment on whether a casino in Grand Forks would be beneficial before that and more information is made available.

One thing that should be of paramount importance as the business plan is put together though is help for problem gamblers.

While it is very unfair to classify all casino patrons – or lottery ticket buyers for that matter – as problem gamblers, there is a segment of the population that is addicted to gambling.

According to a 2008 Ipsos Reid problem gambling prevalence survey conducted in B.C., which used the Canadian Problem Gambling’s problem gambling severity index (PGSI) – scored on respondent’s answers to nine questions – it was estimated that 4.6 per cent of B.C. residents were problem gamblers, with 3.7 per cent moderate and 0.9 per cent with severe gambling problems.

Projected across the entire province’s population, the survey said that those numbers translated to an estimated 159,000 total problem gamblers, with 128,000 moderate and 31,000 with severe gambling addictions.

The BCLC does have GameSense information centres at casinos to inform people about responsible gambling but is that enough? There is also the voluntary self-exclusion program, where people can voluntarily “exclude” themselves from the casino for a certain amount of time but people who are addicted to gambling might not be in the right frame of mind to use the service.

While the Ipsos Reid  numbers are only estimates, it highlights the fact that problem gambling exists and is not a myth.

That’s not to say that a casino in Grand Forks wouldn’t be beneficial as it could bring in money to the city but the issue should be thoroughly examined and help for problem gambling should be a part of the plan..

Whether people like it or not, problem gambling will be an issue if and when a casino in Grand Forks is built. Better to have something in place to address that problem.

– The Grand Forks Gazette