7 May

Ontario Calls for More Gambling with Less Behavioral Research

Op-Ed – Face-Palm Moment: Gambling in Ontario takes curious turn as funding for addiction research agency gets unplugged.

Face-Palm moment - Gambling in Ontario takes Curious Turn, No More Addiction Research

It’s never a good thing when we utter the phrase, “What were they thinking?” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s being said about the government of Ontario. Following weeks of provincial praise regarding the due regulation of international online gambling companies, now leaders are cutting off funding to what’s been considered one of the most important problem gambling prevention agencies this side of the 49th parallel.

According to recent reports, Ontario has decided to discontinue financing an agency known as the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO). The CA$2.5 million that was expected to go to the research group to fund this year’s research has bee canceled. To make matters worse, employees have been given barely 2 months to box up their belongings and vacate the premises.

Gambling in Ontario Taking a Curious Turn

For more than 20 years, the agency has provided critical statistics that help Ontario pave the best regulations and policies for a healthy gaming market. Considering the province’s recent decision to further expand gambling, both on land and online, one would expect such research to necessitate additional funding. Clearly, Ontario’s budget setters don’t see it that way.

After canceling the remainder of the organization’s funds for 2019, Ontario let the agency’s 14 employees know their tenure was appreciated, but no longer needed. Effective in July, the research facility will shut down. Those 14 employees have from now until then to find a new source of income.

Staff weren’t the only ones surprised by the announcement. Both advocates and opponents of gambling expansion in the region are raising their brows at the news. It only makes sense that, with an increase in gambling would come an increase in addictive behavior, unless specific measures are taken to thwart such a rise. But now, without a research agency to discover the cause and effect, who’s to determine the best solution to an unmeasured problem?

GREO Deactivation In Line with Ontario’s Direction

For decades, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG), as well as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission Ontario (AGCO), have relied upon data from GREO researchers. Now politicians say the information once acquired from the exchange is no longer aligned with Ontario’s new gaming plans.

The government says the GREO shut down won’t be an end to problem gambling funding in the province. Another $33 million per year will continue to be funneled into treatment programs for those suffering from addiction. But that information didn’t sit well with opponents of the plan.

Instead of continuing work to prevent the problem, politicians are simply continuing to throw money at treating the problem each time it occurs. In the meantime, are we to sit back and watch gambling addiction rend families and their finances asunder?

The sad truth is, most compulsive gamblers do not seek treatment until the worst stages of addiction have already taken hold. Their families have been torn apart. Their finances are in shambles. Once an addict has lost everything there is to lose, only then do they accept that there’s a problem and seek treatment to fix it. Thus, preventing the problem before it gets out of control has historically been the goal.

It certainly raises the question as to whether Ontario’s political regime has officially given up on working for the people in favor of working solely for the money. No doubt governments are greedy for cash – they all are, and they always have been – but they sure are being more blatant about it in Ontario these days.

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