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Who has the incentive to end the gambling crisis?


  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am

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My letter is in response to Ken Allred’s article titled ‘Gambling addictions deserve more light’ posted in Jan. 29 Gazette. According to a 2011 report titled Gambling in Alberta: History, Current Status, and Socioeconomic Impacts, 77 per cent of VLT profits and 72 per cent of slot machine profits in this province (also known as electronic gaming machines or EGMs) come from “problem gamblers.” This same report also mentions that up to 55 “problem gamblers” commit suicide each year in this province alone – that’s over one per week!

Far too many of our fellow citizens have already not survived EGMs and far too many more will come to believe, as I used to, that suicide is the only way out of this horrific addiction, that is ... unless someone helps them understand before it’s too late the reasons why it is not them who are sick but rather the machines that are making them sick!

I was, for many years, one of the tens of thousands of “EGM problem gamblers” in this province. First let me say that I am not against gambling but rather for the right to be able to make informed choices. The only reason I survived my addiction is because of asking my higher power for help which led me to research EGMs over a 10-year period.

Most people I talk to believe EGMs are no different than alcohol and tobacco but there are at least two major differences: people know exactly what they are buying when they go pick up liquor and cigarettes and secondly, neither of these products are advertised or sold as entertainment!

The questions that have plagued me since my research are as follows: If the bulk of EGM profits are derived from “problem gamblers,” who of the people hugely benefiting from them would have the incentive to find out if it’s true that losing control of money and time while playing these machines is a common and natural experience? Which ones would have the incentive to educate themselves about the reasons why EGMs:

Undermine rather than facilitate the player’s ability to gamble responsibly; addict players three to four times faster than other forms of gambling; entice them into a dissociative state; prevent them from making controlled, informed and rational decisions; entice players to chase their losses or lose the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time and are designed for “player extinction.”

Who of the people hugely benefiting from EGMs would want to advertise why these machines are known throughout the world as the “crack cocaine of all gambling” or warn people about their many addictive features? Would it be, for example, the owners or managers of the bars and casinos who would likely lose 75 per cent of their EGM profits without “problem gamblers?” Would it be the employees, the CEO or board members of the corporation that own these machines or the charity groups that are now able to raise the whole of their annual funds by working a casino for a few days? How about the taxpayers who would each have to pay about $600 extra per year without EGMs in this province? Or would it be the gambling researchers and treatment counsellors whose funding is derived from these machines?

Who, of all the people benefiting so greatly from EGMs would want to ask the question that begs to be asked: which came first in our community – problem gamblers or problem machines? Which one of them would care to know there are more “problem gamblers” in this province than people living with cancer? Why would any of these people care to seek out the reasons why many EGM players go broke, lose their jobs, family, friends, homes, businesses and live with constant and extreme depression and even sometimes end up in jail? Who would be willing to give up such huge profits long enough to research why so many “problem gamblers” commit or attempt suicide each and every year or why such atrocity has been allowed to go on silently for so long? As it did for me, the truth will find those who ask the questions that should have been asked before and every day since these unconscionable fund-raisers were brought into our province!

Gisele Jubinville, St. Albert


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