Researcher says gambling is too easy in Alberta

CALGARY – A specialist with the Alberta Gambling Research Institute questions whether gambling is too accessible in the province.

“There’s a lot of adverse affects that go along with it, including problem gambling.”

Garry Smith is reacting after the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) announced that it took in $2.2 billion in 2012-13. Of that $2.2 billion, $1.4 million came from gaming alone. The AGLC says that’s about $150 million more than it was expecting to bring in.

“Gaming and liquor revenue are largely dependent on Albertan’s disposable incomes, how much they’re spending on their entertainment activities. So there was a bit of a higher increase in slot machines that we had originally budgeted for,” said Jody Korchinski, a spokesperson with the AGLC.

The money goes into the Alberta Lottery Fund, which pays for a number of government capital projects and programs.

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Smith says that at least 40 per cent of that revenue was collected from problem gamblers. Smith says the government needs to take a serious look at the 19,000 VLTs in the province, which he says are the most additive.

“It’s machines that attract problem gamblers. So it’s a Catch-22 situation. Yeah, they’re good for government revenue, but on the other hand, most of the people that are addicted to gambling, it’s because of EGMs (Electronic Gambling Machines).”

Korchinski says the AGLC takes problem gambling seriously, and provides information about it to anyone that needs help.

“We do have staff in most of the casinos who are there walking the floor and just talking to gamblers, and there to assist as well, if they have problems or want more information about responsible gaming initiatives.”

Smith says there are 24 casinos in Alberta, way more than any other province. He notes that Ontario has a much bigger population but only 10 casinos.

The government does attribute some of the increased revenue to Alberta’s growing population.

With files from Global News, CHQR.

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