We’re a nation of gamblers, by government design. Internet gambling the latest vice to part Ontarians with billions in bets | Opinion


It’s exciting for Canadian sports fans this week to have the NHL season open alongside the NBA preseason. The baseball playoffs are underway, the NFL is back and the CFL season is heading towards its finale (Go Bombers!).

But there is a problem. bets Who else is fed up with Bet365 advertising between every period, every inning and every quarter? I can’t reach for the volume button on the remote fast enough.

I started keeping a mental list of new sports betting sites since Ontario legalized them in April. As well as Gibraltar based Bet365 (a not-so-subtle nudge for betting every day of the year) there’s BetRivers, The Score, Sports Interaction, Bodog, DraftKings, FanDuel and those are the ones I remember.

Vegas is also there, with Caesar’s Sportsbook and BetMGM hiring Wayne Gretzky, among others, to showcase their gambling.

Government agency iGaming Ontario (iGO) reported Wednesday that total bets on Ontario’s nascent internet gaming market – which includes operators offering online sports betting, casino gambling and poker – totaled around 6 in the three months ended September 30 Raised billions of dollars in wagers. billion with a “b” – in just three months.

Ontario has 25 OLG casinos including Thunder Bay’s. There’s a bingo hall in every city and township in the country, and usually one lineup at each of the dozens and dozens of OLG lottery sites in most townships – 10,000 of them across the province.

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Do you remember when it was Wintario? That was in 1975. Before that, there were tickets to Irish sweepstakes secretly sold in barbershops and pool halls. Now new games are being introduced all the time and there are more scratch cards than one can keep track of.

Bingo halls are losing ground to casinos and lotteries, and Ontario was quietly “modernizing” 37 of them into de facto casinos with rows of betting machines — 2,900 in all — that look and work like slot machines, legal only in casinos and on racing tracks .

These “slot machines” (before the draw levers were pushed out by buttons) with their fast action and high limits can attract problem gamblers who account for a vastly disproportionate share of gambling revenue. And no matter where or how you gamble in Ontario, you’ll hear and see a pitch for the Problem Gambling Hotline.

A study for the province found that only about 10 percent of problem gamblers wanted help with their problems. Of these individuals, 64 percent actually sought help.

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WE ARE a nation of gamblers and it is government envisioned.

The government is addicted to our vices. Last year, the LCBO reported $2.5 billion in revenue on $7 billion in sales. The government received a dividend of $2.4 billion.

By the end of 2021, Ontario residents spent $145 million on legal marijuana. In early 2022, Global News reported that retail cannabis sales in Ontario have added a total of $13.3 billion to Canada’s economy since legalization. The province has also earned about $4 billion in tax revenue.

I’m looking at an online list of 10 weed shops in Thunder Bay but this must be out of date. There seems to be a new pot shop in every neighborhood every other month. What a difference from the wild and crazy 60’s when you walked into a pharmacy and dropped $12 a gram of AAA weed was a dream. Then you bought an ounce of street grass for $25. There are 28 grams in an ounce, which would cost $336 in today’s dollars.

The Ontario government’s annual revenue from OLG-operated lotteries, casinos and slot machines is US$8 billion per year.

Every three months, local media in Thunder Bay runs a story about the casino’s quarterly dividend paid to the host city. It usually costs around $600,000, which means it adds about $2.4 million to the city coffers a year.

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But that’s only 10 percent of the casino’s revenue, meaning about $24 million is spent on gambling each year, money that largely leaves the community, leaving far more worthwhile expenses unexploited and leaving addicts and their families much poorer.

About a quarter of Ontario adults engage in gambling on a weekly basis, with lottery buying being the most common weekly activity. The average total gambling spend for players is $91.51 per month, with internet gambling and casino table games spending being the highest.

It is clear that as gambling opportunities increase, so will the number of problem gamblers. There is less money for personal and household expenses, and corporate spending and charitable donations are reduced.

Given the huge revenue streams, don’t expect the province to limit access to gambling that promises that elusive jackpot if you can only wager long enough to win.

Ian Pattison has retired after 50 years of award-winning journalism at The Chronicle-Journal but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.


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