One recommendation from the provincial health officer would have the province disclose which of the slot machines in B.C. casinos are rated as having a higher risk of becoming habit forming.

Report urges province to do more to curb problem gambling

Limit access to booze, cash, high-risk slot machines in B.C. casinos, Kendall recommends

B.C. does too little to fight problem gambling and should consider new steps, from making it harder to get alcohol and cash in casinos to removing the most addictive high-risk slot machines.

Those recommendations come from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall, who tackled the health impacts of gambling Wednesday with the release of his annual report titled “Lower the Stakes.”

Chief among the findings is that B.C. underspends other provinces in prevention and treatment for problem gambling – it invests about half the national average on a per capita basis.

Liquor access is one area of risk the province could tighten, Kendall said, perhaps through reduced hours of alcohol service at casinos or by raising drink prices.

He said gambling delivers endorphins that stimulate pleasure centres of the brain.

“If you also have alcohol and add that to the mix and you’ve got an ATM there with an unlimited cash amount, you’ve definitely got a scenario where people are going to behave less and less responsibly.”

Banning ATMs or requiring players to set an advance limit on what they might spend is another idea advanced in the report.

It also zeroes in on high-risk electronic gaming machines – the slots designed by manufacturers to generate the most compulsive behaviour.

Kendall suggested they be replaced with lower risk models and urged the province to post the risk rating on each machine so gamblers could choose a lower risk option.

Gerald Thomas of the Centre for Addictions Research, a co-author of the report, said the province has high, medium and low risk ratings for all of the slot machines in B.C. casinos and should disclose how many it has of each.

Kendall noted government is in a conflict of interest because it relies heavily on gambling profits but is also responsible for protecting vulnerable citizens.

“This is a public health issue,” he said, adding the time may be right for a “fulsome discussion on the benefits and the risks” of gambling in light of rejections of new casinos over the past two years by Surrey and Vancouver.

Any new decisions to expand gambling should come with an assessment of the risk to problem gamblers and be contingent on reducing the overall share of revenue extracted from them, the report recommends.

There’s been no detailed study of problem gambling in B.C. in several years but new research is slated for next year.

According to 2007 statistics, 3.7 per cent of B.C. residents are at “moderate risk” and 0.9 per cent are classified as problem gamblers.

Kendall noted the two groups account for 26 per cent of total gambling revenue despite making up less than five per cent of the population.

There are 160,000 gamblers in the two risky groups but only 4,000 calls per year to a problem gambling helpline, suggesting the number of people who could be helped is “much higher.”

Kendall argues the B.C. Lottery Corp. could do more to identify problem gamblers – possibly using data on their gambling gathered through a loyalty card program – and then dispatching staff to attempt treatment interventions.

The report calls on the province to devote at least 1.5 per cent of gambling revenue to problem gambling initiatives, tripling the current outlay.

It  also urges school classes to warn children of the dangers of gambling, focusing on students in grades 10 to 12.

Provincial gambling revenue per capita climbed 56 per cent over the last decade from $353 per person in 2002 to $552 by 2011.

The $2.1-billion a year industry delivers nearly $900 million in net profits to government.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said in a statement the province this year increased its Responsible Gambling program budget by 30 per cent.

“We take the social costs of gambling seriously,” he said, adding the province and BCLC will provide $11 million for responsible gambling this year.

De Jong said the province is committed to continually improving but will review the performance of its current programs before considering any increase in spending.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Pioneer Ave filming to include snow effects, stunt driving and fire arms

Pioneer Avenue to be backdrop for scenes set in 1950s

UPDATE: Rockslide keeps Coquihalla northbound lane closed

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

Brother of teen killed by stray bullet in Vancouver says the death left a void

Alfred Wong, 15, was gunned down while on his way home from dinner with his family

UPDATE: Wind warning ends for Metro Vancouver after thousands lose power

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Week in Review – January 19

Movie filming, water upgrades and more

Man lives despite malfunctioning defibrillator at B.C. arena

A middle-aged man went into cardiac arrest after at game at Pitt Meadows Arena last Wednesday.

Cause of Northern B.C. seaplane crash released

TSB releases report on seaplane crash during a water landing in 2016 near First Nations community

Vancouver police crack down on pop-up pot vendors

Officers raided merchants’ tables on Robson Square late Sunday

Bell Media, NFL take appeal over Super Bowl ad rules to top court

At issue is a ban on substituting American ads with Canadian ones during the game’s broadcast

Crown seeks 4.5 years jail for B.C. woman convicted of counselling tax evasion

Debbie Anderson the latest from group to face jail for teaching debunked ‘natural person’ theory

Movie filmed in Castlegar B.C. opens Friday

Hollow in the Land starring Dianna Agron will be playing in select cinemas.

Semi rollover on Highway 3

Highway 3 is reduced to single-alternating lanes

Cougar window shops at Banff grocery store

An RCMP officer spots a cougar outside an Alberta grocery store

Most Read