Provincial health officer wants to see less drinking at B.C. casinos
B.C.'s provincial health officer is suggesting the government curtail access to alcohol in casinos.
Dr. Perry Kendall also recommends restricting or reducing access to cash at gambling facilities.
Kendall makes the recommendations in his new report on legalized gambling in the province, entitled Lower the Stakes: A Public Health Approach to Gambling in British Columbia.
"Health protection initiatives should focus on restricting the availability of harmful forms of gambling and restricting or limiting the use of alcohol and access to money in gaming facilities," the report states.
According to the report, released today (October 16), the B.C. government has expanded access to slot machines and Internet gambling, which are more risky in terms of problem gambling.
"While the BC government deserves recognition for implementing various problem gambling prevention and treatment programs, its decision to expand access to more problematic forms of gambling in recent years is counterproductive from a public health perspective. The available evidence suggests that this expansion of gaming availability has resulted in increased prevalence of problem gambling in BC," Lower the Stakes concludes.
The report notes that approximately 31,100 British Columbians, or 0.9 percent of the population, were problem gamblers in 2007. That's more than double the rate of problem gamblers in 2002. A further 3.7 percent of British Columbians were considered moderate-risk gamblers in 2007.
Problem gambling can lead to bankruptcy, loss of employment, marital breakdown, and suicide, Lower the Stakes points out.
Kendall says restricting or reducing access to alcohol in gambling facilities could entail "reducing the physical availability of alcohol (e.g., reducing hours of service) and reducing the economic availability (e.g., raising prices)".
Meanwhile, curtailing access to money could mean "mandating player pre-commitment, and prohibiting automated teller machines (ATMs)".
Kendall wants to see a minimum of 1.5 percent of gaming revenues earmarked for responsible and problem gambling programs.