A much needed focus on the good side of gambling

The online gambling industry could well take a few hints from the Canadian Gaming Association which this week focused on the positive entertainment and economic benefits of the land gambling industry as a counterpoint to the mainstream media’s apparent bias toward negative stories on the pastime. 

CBC news reported that the $15-billion Canadian gambling industry is emphasising the positive in a new report that points to its payroll, contribution to government coffers and key role in supporting the hospitality business.

Gambling is “…larger than magazine, book, spectator sport, movie theatre and performing arts sectors combined,” the Canadian Gaming Association said this week in a press release about the report.

“We would like to focus today on the good things gaming has done,” said consultant Robert Scarpelli of HLT Advisory Inc., who wrote the report which includes the impact of casinos, slot machines, bingos and government-run lotteries.

The study says:

  • The industry contributes $15.3 billion to the economy (including food and entertainment spending).
  • Consumers spend $14.5 billion a year on gambling alone.
  • About 57 percent, or $8.6 billion, goes to governments and charities.
  • The industry accounts for more than 50 000 Canadian jobs.
  • Current capital construction is close to $10 billion, nearly half in Ontario province.
  • Gambling generates almost as much revenue for the hospitality business as full-service restaurants, and is ahead of accommodation ($14.3 billion) and air travel ($11.9 billion for Canada’s two major airlines).

Perhaps predictably, the industry’s pitch didn’t sit well with Toronto lawyer Tracy Warne, who said the report failed to look at how much of revenue comes from the pockets of addicts, the people who become “social tragedies” because of serious gambling problems.

“I was horrified by how much money they are making,” he said,

Scarpelli said that wasn’t the point. “There are a lot of studies out there that deal with the social side of things,” he said. “The focus of this study was on economic benefits and economic impacts.”

For most people, gambling is a joy and an entertainment, he said.