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Study suggests gambling revenue rides on the backs of addicts

The provincial government is voicing concerns over a study suggesting that Alberta health care is riding on the backs of gambling addicts.

A 2011 University of Lethbridge study about gambling revenues in our province produced alarming results.

“About 50 per cent of all gambling revenue in Alberta comes from two or three per cent of the population who are problem gamblers,” said Dr. Robert Williams, a U of L professor and researcher. “So a good portion of the money that’s spent for good causes, health care, infrastructure, education, is actually coming from the most vulnerable segment of the population.”

The professor says 4.2 per cent of Alberta’s total revenue comes directly from the pockets of people suffering from a gambling addiction.

While the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission has multiple programs put into place to help educate Albertans on addiction, like the ‘Set a Limit’ program, it says it’s not taking the study’s findings lightly.

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“Gaming is provided as a form of entertainment.  Certainly if one person is having problems with their gambling activities that would be a concern for us,” said Jody Korchinski of the AGLC. “We do look at what research is being done and we do consult with the researchers too if appropriate.”

The province takes more revenue from gambling than any other across the country.  British Columbia takes around three per cent, and Ontario just takes two per cent.

But that’s not what prompted Professor Williams and his team to conduct the study.  He says there’s always been negative opinions surrounding gambling and governments wanted the study to answer one simple question: Do the costs of gambling outweigh the benefits?

And he says there is no clear answer.  It all depends on your perspective.

“We estimate there might be 50 suicides a year in Alberta that are gambling related,” Williams said. “On the other hand we make a billion and a half dollars. It all depends whether you consider that monetary gains worth the social costs.”

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