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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Comment: Gambling is simply a tax on the vulnerable

Comment: Gambling is simply a tax on the vulnerable

Al Anderson / Times Colonist
JULY 17, 2016
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The costs associated with the liberalization and saturation of casino gambling, due to local and provincial thirst for more money, are high and increasing.
The social costs, in a study of one jurisdiction that is likely typical, rose from $40 million to $106 million from 2003 to 2007. These and others are in the range of 150 per cent increases.
These and most other social-cost numbers are mostly head-in-the-sand figures, unpaid by regulators and governments. Token funds for slick “play within your limits” ads don’t cut it.
Neither does B.C. Lottery Corp. spokesperson Angela Koulyras’s comment regarding the 91-year-old who lost everything: “This is an unfortunate incident. We care about our players and take our responsibility to offer safe and fun gambling entertainment seriously.”
This implies rarity, while admitting they don’t track or know the gamblers. You don’t care about those you don’t know.
Studies, such as ones from southern Nevada and the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, discovered casino gambling to be highly correlated with social problems: domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, divorce, bankruptcy, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, illicit sex (especially prostitution), fraud, money-laundering and theft.
I know people like the word “gaming,” but it is much too soft a term. Gambling revenue from problem gamblers for all kinds of betting is 23 to 37 per cent, but for problem gamblers in casinos, it is 50 per cent. Fifty cents of every dollar spent in casinos is spent by problem gamblers.
Contrary to lottery-corporation, local- and provincial-government reporting, the bulk of casino revenues do not come from excess recreational and entertainment funds. Up to 80 per cent of gambling revenues (50 per cent from problem gamblers alone) are like a tax on the vulnerable and the least able to afford it.
In their state of ongoing shortages and addiction, usually one of two spouses will spend needed food, housing and retirement dollars gambling for the sake of false hopes for betterment. Where both spouses gamble, homes and businesses are often lost.
The longer the time spent trying, the more the realization of loss and hopelessness. I’m from a family of addicted gamblers. My grandmother knew scarcity most of her married life. One aunt barred herself from a local casino, but was allowed to re-enter at will or simply go to another.
Child neglect and abuse and family-member suicide are never far from the deception, unfulfilled hope and despair.
Problem gamblers are twice as likely to commit suicide as other addicts. The B.C. Coroners Service noted a total of 34 gambling-related suicides between 2003 and 2010. In 2010, there were 10 such reported cases, alarmingly, more than double the year before. Across Canada, at least 200 gamblers kill themselves each year, according to the Canada Safety Council.
The true numbers are likely more than triple. More alarming should be the fact of increasing numbers of youth suicides from gambling.
Increasingly, they will happen on your watch. Forget the dreams of cruise-ship clients, and busloads flocking to the casino doors. The boats have their own tables and so does almost every other B.C. community.
Many would rather believe a lie than accept the truth that they don’t like. Councillors included. We can choose to believe or disbelieve a truth, but our choice doesn’t affect reality. Truth doesn’t adjust itself to accommodate our preferences.
The truth is, people are going to lose significantly more than they win. The truth is that the bottom line of the actual community financial balance sheet is negative. The truth is: Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, grandparents and youth will die, guaranteed. And when the truth is heard, sorry never works.
American biblical scholar E. Schuyler English tells the story of a man who satisfied a lifelong dream by buying a high-quality barometer. When he unpacked the instrument, he was dismayed to find it pointing to the section marked “hurricane.”
After shaking the instrument vigorously, the man wrote a scorching letter to the store from which he had purchased the instrument and, on his way to the office in New York the next morning, mailed the protest.
That evening, he returned to Long Island to find not only his barometer missing, but his house also. The needle was telling him something.
Your surest way to avoid the disastrous and inevitable human costs, the pain and the explaining, is to see “the needle” and stop the application process. Tell your addicted B.C Lottery Corp., on behalf of the true-life balance sheet: No thank you.
Al Anderson holds a PhD in mathematics. This is an edited version of a submission he made to Victoria city council on Thursday.
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