Online gambling - not appropriate government fundraising

It’s no mystery why the province recently decided to try its hand at government sponsored online gambling. With more than $100 million a year being spent by British Columbians online at similar sites, our cash-strapped leaders decided to replenish the coffers the quick and easy way.

Of course, the move was justified with a 'well, they're doing it anyway so we might as well benefit instead of sending all that money somewhere else and by the way, think of all the charities we can help with that money.'

Not surprisingly, this is an about-face from campaign rhetoric before taking office when the Liberals said they would stop the expansion of gambling in the province, which they claimed was spreading addiction and harming families.

The lure of cash was too enticing and instead of halting or slowing, gambling revenues have greatly increased during the Liberals' stay. We now bring in more than $1 billion a year from this industry and give a paltry $120 million of that to non-profits.

Although it is financially tempting, I believe an ethical barrier has been crossed when it comes to government sponsored online gambling.

Pathological gambling affects one and a half percent of Canadians with numbers on the rise as gambling becomes more readily available. Another two and a half percent are considered problem gamblers.

This addiction brings with it a host of other problems and exacerbates issues for those already struggling with other addictions and difficulties. Studies show a strong association between pathological gambling and substance abuse as well as other psychiatric disorders. Depression and bipolar disorder very commonly co-exist with gambling addiction with roughly 17 percent of pathological gamblers experiencing bipolar disorder.

Since losing money is inevitable for problem gamblers, these individuals usually end up in desperate financial difficulty as a result of their addiction. Unfortunately, along with this comes a much higher than average suicide rate among gambling addicts.

A study conducted through Gamblers Anonymous found 48 percent of problem gamblers experienced suicidal thoughts. Another study said 18 percent attempt suicide.

Given the many individuals and families whose lives are ruined by this disease, I find it a very poor choice for our government to be making it easier and easier for people to put themselves in harm's way. A government claiming to care about the health and well-being of its citizens should not be in the business of profiting from their vulnerabilities.

 

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