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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT BE IN THE BUSINESS OF GAMBLING?

The other day I was in my local corner store grinding my teeth as I waited for a lotto ticket person to have her tickets checked. As I heard the familiar, “WINNER – GAGNANT” I began to ponder the ethicality of government sponsored gambling.

If the Ontario (Canada) government were a for-profit corporation it would have the best scam in town in when it comes to gambling. Not only does it run all the gaming but it’s also in the business of helping gambling addicts. This can’t be blamed on the current, inept, Liberal government, for all three parties have benefited from this set up when in power.

I tried to find the exact number of games the Ontario government runs but am not sure if I got all of them. Here’s what I did find:

• The Ontario Lottery Gaming (OLG) Corporation has at least 25 scratch and win tickets available to the public.

• The OLG runs a minimum 14 lotteries in the province.

• There are 59 online games available (some experts would contend that online gaming is the most addictive).

So there are quite a lot of games for people to get into trouble playing. Many of us have heard the advice/slogan of the OLG – Play within your limit. Telling a gambling addict this is like telling an alcoholic to only have one drink. It doesn’t work. All addictions have one thing in common: the inability for the addict to moderate and/or stop his addiction. The only way for an addict, gambling, drug or otherwise to begin to get better is to be abstinent from whatever he is addicted to. For the gambler this means no more gambling. Be it poker, scratch and win or a lottery. Although, the jury is still out on whether a gambling addict can play Tim Hortons’ Roll up the Rim to Win.

Gambling has to be one of the worse addictions ever. I’m a recovered alcoholic/addict and will be forever grateful that I never became a gambling addict. If I were to relapse on drugs and/or alcohol I would have an immediate negative consequence. However, if a gambling addict relapses and wins she has a false positive. The disease will kick in and tell the addict that, “hey, you don’t have a problem you just won”. This can have devastating consequences. Of all addictions gambling has the highest suicide rate. The reason being that addict loses so much so fast.

It is this type of disease that the Ontario government via the OLG is helping to prosper. Don’t get me wrong I am not blaming the government, casinos, etc. for the problem gambler. That would be as if I blame liquor companies for my alcoholism. However, the liquor companies didn’t get me hooked then try to fix me. One of the jobs of a government is look out for its citizens’ welfare. The government is there to protect us from terrorists, criminals, health hazards and disease. Addiction is a disease. Gambling addiction is a disease of the mind. Researchers have proven that the areas of the brain stimulated by cocaine are exactly the same as the areas stimulated by gambling. So if the government is providing the tools for gamblers to get addicted isn’t it going against its mandate of protecting its citizens?

The monies, made by government sponsored games, are put back into government coffers to help run the province. Very little, if any, is put into helping gambling addicts. The same could be said for the taxes raised by liquor sales – little, if any, are put into alcohol addiction programs. In fact, the government provides more money for harm reduction programs than abstinent based programs. As noted above the only true hope for an addict is abstinence from whatever he is addicted to. So the question is: is it ethical for the government to be in the gambling business?

Here are some stats from https://www.problemgambling.ca/EN/Documents/FA_GamblingProblemGamblinginCanada.pdf

• 3.2% of Canadian adults are affected by moderate to severe problem gambling.

• 2.2% of youth aged 15–24 are affected by moderate risk or problem gambling.

Back to the story of me waiting for the lotto ticket person to have her tickets checked. It took a couple minutes for the machine to find all the winning tickets. Once this was done the winnings were given to the customer. The customer than began the slow process of buying more lottery tickets and picking out more scratch and win tickets. I usually wait patiently, yet annoyed, while this type of interaction takes place. And it DOES take place a lot. But this time it was going on 10 minutes and I finally lost it. I politely asked the sales person if I could make my purchase while the lotto person decided which tickets she wanted to scratch.

Next time you are in line behind one of these lotto people I would suggest you take a look at their clothes and shoes of said person. If they are spending loads of money on lotto tickets yet have holes in their shoes and clothes you are probably looking at an addict.