While MLAs Vicki Conrad and Leo Glavine are to be commended for their expressed concerns for those with gambling problems (VLT Profits Plunge, But Casino Profits Are Up, The Daily News, July 20), they demonstrate little knowledge of the facts, either with regards to problem gambling or that Nova Scotia already has a comprehensive gaming strategy that was developed after much public consultation.

Nova Scotia’s problem gambling rates (0.8 per cent problem gambling, 2.0 per cent combined problem and moderaterisk) are among the lowest in Canada and around the world. To put it another way, the overwhelming majority (98 per cent or more) of Nova Scotians who play do so with little or no problem at all. In fact, they choose to gamble (whether VLTs or at the casino) because they view it as a perfectly acceptable entertainment alternative.

For those who need help, Canada (and Nova Scotia) is a world leader with regards to responsible gaming, allocating more than $90 million annually for research and treatment – more per-capita than anywhere else in the world.

As part of the government’s overall gaming strategy, Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. ‘s mandate is to oversee the province’s gaming business in a socially responsible manner. This led to the policy decision to reduce the number of VLTs, their locations and hours of operation, which in turn resulted in reduced VLT revenues.

However, to equate a reduction in revenues as somehow indicative of success in the treatment of problem gambling (or increased revenues as somehow a failure) is simplistic. Nowhere has it been demonstrated that reducing access to legal gaming (including VLTs) or prohibition reduces problem gambling propensity or rates. With the easy availability of internet gaming this is truer now than ever before.

What isn’t needed is another measurement of problem gambling rates that never statistically vary, or a reduction of entertainment options. Knee-jerk reactions, making assumptions about people’s gaming behaviour and calling for additional study may be attractive from a political opposition perspective, but it’s not meaningful or productive.

Bill Rutsey
CEO, Canadian Gaming