On­line gambling: wait­ing for the pitch

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - NEWS -

t’s com­ing. Maybe not to­day or to­mor­row, but soon. And the ar­gu­ment will be a fa­mil­iar one.

The pro­po­nents will use the same ar­gu­ments that were made to in­tro­duce video lot­tery ter­mi­nals to the At­lantic re­gion. Some­thing along the lines that “some­thing has to be done to pro­tect At­lantic Cana­di­ans from shady ‘grey-mar­ket’ off­shore gambling sites.” Plus, there’s all that money to be made.

The pro­po­nents in ques­tion, the At­lantic Lot­tery Cor­po­ra­tion (ALC), will fight hard to be seen as the white knights in a nasty business.

How do you know it’s com­ing? Well, a cou­ple of ways. On­tario’s lot­tery cor­po­ra­tion is right in the midst of rolling out In­ter­net gambling to its 53,000 Win­ner’s Cir­cle mem­bers, a group that’s prob­a­bly ready to kick the on­line gambling site’s tires.

The “we’re go­ing to be the good guys” ar­gu­ment was used in On­tario as the On­tario Lot­tery and Gaming Cor­po­ra­tion (OLG) pre­pared to launch its much-broader on­line gambling web­site.

OLG spokesman Tony Bi­tonti said this to the Wind­sor Star: “We want to make sure that $500 mil­lion stays in On­tario. ... That money is go­ing off­shore with no as­sur­ances peo­ple will get paid - and many of th­ese web­sites have gone un­der and money was lost. ... We did mar­ket re­search and the trust fac­tor is a big thing. Peo­ple have faith this will be a reg­u­lated site and if they win, they will get paid.”

Per­haps that’s why the ALC fledg­ling on­line gambling site boasts the slo­gan “Safe. Se­cure. Proudly At­lantic Cana­dian.” (You can play on­line now with the ALC, but not full In­ter­net gambling. More on that in a fu­ture col­umn.)

That’s also why this year’s ALC an­nual re­port echoed On­tario’s, say­ing, “At­lantic Cana­di­ans are spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars an­nu­ally on th­ese gambling sites that op­er­ate

Iout­side of any reg­u­la­tions es­tab­lished by our gov­ern­ments. Un­like At­lantic Lot­tery, those sites’ prof­its don’t stay in the re­gion to support our com­mu­ni­ties.”

The re­port sug­gested “a safe and reg­u­lated al­ter­na­tive would ad­vance player pro­tec­tion in At­lantic Canada. ... We think it is time for the dis­cus­sion.”

There’s a lot to that dis­cus­sion - if it ever goes fur­ther that the ALC and its share­hold­ers.

Robert Mur­ray with the Prob­lem Gambling In­sti­tute of On­tario spelled out the is­sues with that ap­proach pretty well, also to the Wind­sor Star: “They are mak­ing gambling ac­ces­si­ble 24/7 on any screen size - lap­top, smart phone, tablet. You will be able to gam­ble in the mid­dle of the night in your jam­mies with a case of beer be­side you. There are risks to this.”

The risks are big­ger even than with VLTs - and VLTs have more than their fair share of prob­lems. Any­one who cov­ers court in the At­lantic prov­inces knows how of­ten VLTs and gambling ad­dic­tion come up in fraud and theft cases, and no one ever does an anal­y­sis to see whether the costs of VLTs might be out­weigh­ing their sin­gle ben­e­fit: cash for gov­ern­ments.

But VLTs, as suc­cess­ful as they are at sepa- rat­ing cash from suck­ers, aren’t catch­ing enough young peo­ple or enough ac­tion. Even though a St. John’s Tele­gram in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed sin­gle ma­chines pulling in hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in cash a year (and other ev­i­dence shows av­er­age prof­its of roughly $63,000 per ma­chine per year), the ma­chines are seen as los­ing their lus­tre.

That’s be­cause younger play­ers are mov­ing to faster on­line of­fer­ings, and peo­ple gambling from the se­cu­rity of their home com­put­ers have less im­me­di­ate stigma to worry about and more avail­able cash - it’s only a credit card num­ber away.

Just watch: the ar­gu­ment is go­ing to be framed as “the gambling’s go­ing on al­ready, so we should have a reg­u­lated slice of the pie.”

What it won’t be is whether, eth­i­cally, provin­cial gov­ern­ments should be in the game at all. If they do de­cide to play on­line, the dam­age done by VLTs will look like a drop in the bucket.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.