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