ALC and BCLC have changed their online gaming rules in the face of offshore gaming sites that are now attracting billions of dollars in gaming revenues globally, on an annual basis. In fact, it is estimated that Canadians are currently spending more than one billion dollars annually on online gaming sites – and approximately $87 million in B.C. alone. Clearly, this is a rapidly growing worldwide industry, and the impacts are only beginning to be understood.
We do know this much, however – that Canadian online gamers are increasingly trusting their money to websites that are not subject to Canadian regulatory oversight, have no limits, and offer little to no help to problem gamblers.
We also know that organizations like BCLC and ALC operate (appropriately) in the intense spotlight of ongoing public scrutiny - with policies, systems and support to deal with issue of problem gambling. Indeed, Canada’s gaming industry contributes more than $100 million annually to the promotion of responsible gaming – which makes this nation the world leader in this area.
In this overall context, the new gaming limits in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada will benefit gamers and society in general.
For one thing, players will now have the option of spending their online dollars within their own province to the benefit of its citizens.
Secondly, the changes give players more choice. Experts say that fostering player responsibility – one key goal of corporations like BCLC and ALC – is more effective than placing mandatory restrictions on all players.
It should be remembered, as well, that the vast majority of Canadians who gamble say they do for fun, not money. Playing is a consumer choice – and right now that choice is taking the benefits of playing outside the province in ever-increasing numbers.
In light of these facts, the argument for getting government lottery corporations out of the gaming business entirely seems particularly threadbare. Instead, the public interest lies in responsible, well-managed lottery corporations that take their role seriously enough to compete for market share, while protecting consumers at the same time.
Thousands of years of human history suggest, quite forcefully, that people will gamble because they like to gamble. Our shared goal, most recently demonstrated by BCLC and ALC, is to provide gaming options for people that are safe, fun, regulated and responsible. That’s good public policy.
By Bill Rutsey, President and CEO, Canadian Gaming Association