Doctor issues warning about B.C. Place casino

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      The proposed casino to be built next to B.C. Place is a bad idea, according to the lead author of an addiction-policy paper released last spring by the B.C. Medical Association.

      Dr. Shao-Hua Lu, an addictions psychiatrist with Vancouver General Hospital, warned that the location of the gambling facility announced by the province on March 26 is worrisome.

      “People obviously say that if you put a casino anywhere, people will drive there,” Lu told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Absolutely, there is no doubt in my mind that will happen. But the ease where it’s near to a sporting event, it creates greater association between a normally nongambling event such as sports and gambling. I think that is potentially problematic.”

      In Stepping Forward: Improving Addiction Care in British Columbia, Lu and his coauthors noted that almost one in 10 people in the province, or about 400,000 people, suffer from some form of addiction, excluding dependence on tobacco.

      They wrote that 128,000 British Columbians have a “moderate gambling problem”, while 31,000 have a “severe gambling problem”.

      “The number of people in BC with a severe gambling problem has increased since 2002 from 0.4% of the population to 0.9% in 2007,” the authors stated, citing provincial-government data.

      In conversation, Lu, who is also a UBC psychiatry instructor, expressed concern that the new casino will induce gambling among young people for whom sports are an important aspect of their development.

      “Bringing it into a place where young people worship their sports heroes, it might lead to early entrance to gambling,” he said.

      Lu explained that the new casino would be more accessible than the Grand Villa Casino off Highway 1 in Burnaby or the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, or even the Edgewater Casino at Vancouver’s Plaza of Nations, which the proposed facility would replace.

      “Young people are not likely to go to the Edgewater or the Burnaby casino or anywhere else,” he said. “You don’t get that same kind of exposure.

      “Like alcohol, the earlier an individual starts using the substance or involving in gambling, the greater the likelihood that the individual will develop long-term alcohol-related or gambling-related problems. Given how the downtown core is really a younger-individual community, it lowers the barriers for entrance,” Lu added.

      According to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, which regulates all gambling in the province, about 4.6 percent of the population has problems due to compulsive gambling.

      In a prevalence study released in 2008, the branch noted that at this level, B.C. has the highest proportion of “problem gamblers” among a group of seven provinces.

      The paper cited the following problem-gambling estimates in other provinces: Manitoba (3.4 percent), Ontario (3.4 percent), Quebec (1.7 percent), Newfoundland (3.4 percent), Prince Edward Island (1.6 percent), and Nova Scotia (2.1 percent).

      However, the same study also pointed out that “gambling participation” in the province is on the decline. It noted that 73 percent of British Columbians reported that they had participated in at least one gambling activity in the previous 12 months, which is 12 percent lower than the 85 percent recorded in 2002.

      The document also noted that many studies suggest the increased availability of gambling opportunities leads to higher levels of problem gambling.

      This is a matter Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang is well aware of. At a future date, council will decide whether to approve the zoning application by Paragon Development Ltd. to develop a 680,000-square-foot entertainment complex west of B.C. Place Stadium, which will encompass the casino and two hotels.

      A professor of psychiatry, Jang, who teaches at the UBC school of medicine, noted that the “scientific literature is pretty clear”.

      “Exposure is related to addictions, whether it be alcohol or anything,” Jang told the Straight in a phone interview. “For me, what I have to look at is at what point do we allow people to gamble who want to gamble, versus what point does a casino”¦actually start to promote health-and-welfare issues. Those are the two things I have to balance.”

      But until he sees the details of the casino application, Jang is reserving judgment.




      Apr 1, 2010 at 4:50pm

      Gordon Campbell does not care about you or your families.

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      former addict

      Apr 1, 2010 at 11:24pm

      Gambling has ruined my life!! All thanks to lower Mainland casinos...Though not a religious person, i will pray that Gordon Campbell wakes up and realizes the damage that these facilities pose to the lives of families and former addicts....PLEASE DONT PUT A MEGA CASINO IN MY BACKYARD, WE HAVE ENOUGH!!
      Does anyone know what i can do to stop this from happening?


      Apr 2, 2010 at 9:41am

      Now that the Libs have admitted that they are going to lose money on the HST they need another revenue source and addicts seem to be a good target. Many of the costs to treat the resulting problems will be borne by local governments or will happen in a later accounting period so, from the Libs' perspective, all is well.

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      Apr 3, 2010 at 10:09am

      King Gordo does not care what you and I think. He knows he has 4 more years to do whatever he wants and he knows there is not a thing you can do about it..

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      Apr 4, 2010 at 12:04pm

      Doctor shmoctor what does he know about health!

      Now Gordon Campbell - there's someone that knows a thing or two! If you need to transfer some public assets to your cronies - no problem. Got to sell a used car and its a lemon? He was made for the job.

      Why wouldn't you trust Gordon Campbell with the well being of your communities and families?


      Apr 7, 2010 at 1:27pm

      This argument makes no sense. It's not the casino's fault if you have a gambling problem. It's called self control and personal responsibility. I laughed at the statement "it creates greater association between a normally nongambling event such as sports and gambling". Come on dude, get your head out of the sand. Sure, sports aren't supposed to be about gambling, but reality suggest otherwise. Have you ever been to a sports bet in Vegas? By the way I don't like gambling either, so I don't gamble. And yes, the government needs to learn how to balance a budget instead of buying votes by giving everyone everything they ask for. But no one can blame someone else for their bad habits and bad choices.

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      Apr 7, 2010 at 1:35pm

      @blahalah, have you ever heard of the concept of addiction?

      Would you say that it is not Marlboro or Benson and Hedges' fault if an individual becomes addicted to cigerettes?

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      Jaded in Vancouver

      Jan 18, 2011 at 8:52pm

      How many remember far back enough when gambling was illegal ? When did an illegal activity suddenly become an " industry ", and why ? All in the interest of making quick cash of the non-thinking, as well as citing " job creation " for the gaming industry.

      While blahalah brings up excellent points, which I agree with in terms of personal responsbility, my only disagreement with blahalah is that when this type of activity is targetted to the young and impressionable, where does it stop ? That's the decline of our society.

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      Sven Crawson

      Feb 18, 2011 at 2:52pm

      @Jaded, gambling was only illegal when the Chinese communities had their own gambling dens and the government didn't profit from them.

      Do people realize that Edgewater Casino in downtown Vancouver went bankrupt and is barely solvent today? Why do people think a casino 3x larger is going to be sustainable here? It's insane! All the promises these casino execs make (more jobs! more tax money! even more jobs!) are complete lies.

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      Nov 5, 2012 at 11:04pm

      That ignsiht's just what I've been looking for. Thanks!

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