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Revenues or Responsibilities - Ethics in Government-Owned Gambling Industry

Essay by   •  February 3, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  1,125 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,706 Views

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No casino has ever displayed a sign at its entrance reminding the visitors "you cannot beat the house", even though such truthful gambling admonition deserves no less exposure than the "smoking damages health" labels on the cigarette packages. Rather, government-owned casinos allocate a huge amount of expense annually to the marketing and promotion of the casinos. Instead of attempting to restrain problem gamblers, casinos reward them with various complimentary services, called "comps", which induce these gamblers to lose more. In Ontario, for example, the government spent $558-million in fiscal 2009 on casino promotion, among which more than half were invested in "comps" . Making big losers feel like winners, the comps ultimately lead many gamblers to financial ruins, as well as destruction of their careers and families.

Governments' utility on gambling revenues

There used to be an era when gambling was illegal in Canada. In 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code declared a complete ban on all gambling activities. However, ever since casino's reappearance in the mid-1990s in the depths of the economic recession, gambling has become increasingly legitimate and socially acceptable. After a decade, gambling has now become a reliable revenue stream for provincial governments who are mired in debt and looking to grow revenues. Across Canada, total revenue generated from government-operated gaming during 2010-11 was approximately $13.96-billion, which is $0.3-billion (or +2.3%) more than the $13.65-billion reported in 2009-10 . This seems to provide a perfect standing point for utilitarianism to support the government in gambling, as gambling profits would go toward services for public benefit. Moreover, gambling revenue is to some extent considered as "voluntary taxes" that governments obtain without political risks comparing to increasing tax rate. A report of Institute and Marriage of Canada (IMFC) shows that gambling takes $534, on average, from every Canadian adult . A more aggressive perspective, as one of my classmates raised on class, is that big losers are often very wealthy people to whom such losses would not count much. Thus it is fine for government to take money from them for the collective good of the society.

But is this truly what is going on in casinos?

Governments fail in their responsibilities to problem gambling

A 2007 study by professors Robert Williams and Robert Wood from the University of Lethbridge showed that over one third of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)'s revenue came from the 5 percent of gamers who are "problem gamblers" .

Problem gambling is a pathological, compulsive addiction to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or the desire to stop . Research by governments in Australia led to a universal definition: "Problem gambling is characterized by difficulties in limiting money and/or time spent on gambling, which lead to adverse consequences for the gambler, others, and the community . Obviously, problem gamblers should be the target group of help, with treatment and social assistance being provided by governments. Unfortunately, while government-owned casinos do have sufficient facilities to identify these gamblers, the data in casinos have not been used to help potential problem gamblers, but rather to "reward" them so they would come back for more.

In Ontario, the government spent $39-million in fiscal 2009 on treatment, research and prevention of problem gambling , which was merely 7% of what the government spent on marketing and promotion of

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