Leaving Las Vegas

My maximum bet has always been five cents. You don’t win much, but you don’t lose much either. Well, there was that one time I went to Las Vegas where I gambled $20 on slot machines. I was such a low-roller that the $20 lasted for five hours despite free Coronas handed out by skimpily-clad waitresses. 
Somehow, earlier this year, the federal government and the provinces colluded to permit online betting in Canada. I say somehow because I don’t recall there being an announcement from either Justin Trudeau or Doug Ford about what I consider to be a major change in lifestyle and personal finance. Were there any political donations involved?
I first caught on when celebrities from the Trailer Park Boys to Wayne Gretzky began appearing on television promoting online betting sites. The online phenomenon is now so all-pervasive you can’t avoid the ads while you’re watching a sports event. There are even opportunities to bet on games in progress. I think this whole money-grab is bad for society. Imagine the number of people now blowing their brains out losing money from home. The hit on family incomes as well as the cost of addiction support will never be known, but I would hazard it will be in the billions.
Why did the Ford government do this? I guess because everyone else is. A recent article in the New York Times noted that more than thirty U.S. states have legalized online betting and others are planning to follow. In some cases, the bonanza has been small. In the first year of legalized gambling, the state of Michigan collected only $21 million. By contrast, New York put such a high tax rate on betting that the state collected $546 million in the first ten months of this year.
Doug Ford is doing even better. According to Gaming Ontario, in the three months ending September 2022, Ontario garnered $267 million in gaming revenue from $6 billion bet. At that rate, Ford will earn enough in a year to repay the treasury the money he gave up during the election by making annual licence renewal free. I may be a small voice in the wind, but permitting online betting is not my idea of good government. 

2 Responses

  1. Frank Grossman says:

    Thanks, Rod, for your thoughts on what you rightly call “a major change” in public policy that is contrary to the public interest in so many ways. Liberalised gaming laws have the potential to 1) harm mental health of Canadians and their financial well-being (addiction), 2) make money-laundering easier than it already is, and 3) inculcate in our young people the ethic of “easy come, easy go” rather than “thrift & industry”. We’ve certainly come a long way from $1 Wintario tickets, where the proceeds were shared 50:50 with worthy community projects, back in the 1970s.

  2. Catherine Jarmain says:

    Hi Rod. I enjoy reading your blog. I am on the management team of the new agency, iGaming Ontario, that conducts and manages the new legal market. What is often not realized is that, although legal ads are new, Ontarians were spending over $1b/year on illegal sites, often with no protections. Now these sites must obey all Canadian laws, including anti-money laundering (which I am responsible for) and privacy. They are also required to have strong responsible gambling protections (which I am also responsible for). I’d be happy to discuss sometime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *