The View From Here – VLTs offer losing odds to the addict but are safe bet for provincial governments

Tom Henihan

If gambling was outlawed in Canada, I believe gambling addicts would overwhelming welcome that development.

Gambling addiction is an insidious and devastating disease that unlike booze, drugs and smoking, exhibits no overt behaviour and leaves no marks except maybe the evidence of anguish at loosing every penny until one has nothing left.

That moment when an addict has nothing left to gamble with is known euphemistically and poignantly as “the moment of extinction.”

While booze, tobacco and drugs have been among us for millennia, widespread gambling in bars, convenience stores and gas stations along with the increasing number of casinos, is something that governments have conjured up as a dubious but enormously lucrative source of revenue

It is misleading that gambling is classified as entertainment, as for those who play the most find it a hopeless compulsion that is anything but entertaining.

Unlike booze, smoking and drugs gamblers are being sold nothing except the manipulation of their own impulses and weaknesses and this is especially true of when it relates to slot machines or VLTs.

Gambling on horses, a roulette wheel or at a card table are at least genuine games of chance.

VLTS are calibrated to utterly abuse and beguile and if one does not stand the same odds with each spin then it is not a true game of chance.

VLTs provide a situation where governments in effect have their thumb on the wheel, the dice are loaded, the cards are marked, a situation that in any other context would be illegal and rightly so.

It is only a game of chance for the player in so far as he or she might hope this next spin will deliver but it is not a true game of chance as it has been already predetermined whether the machine will deliver or not.

As they say, “the house always wins,” and the house in this case is usually provincial governments.

Not alone does widespread, accessible gambling raise billions of dollars for governments but according to a documentary on the CBC’s Fifth Estate, 88 percent of those billions is raised from gambling addicts and the biggest culprit is the VLTs.

As the Fifth Estate documentary outlines, casinos and provincial gaming commissions pay lip service to addressing the issue of problem gambling.

One such ruse on behalf of the casinos is the “self-exclusion” register where a gambling addict voluntarily put his or her name on a register allowing the casino to bar them from entering the establishment.

This preventative measure ostensibly comes with all the current bells and whistles such as facial recognition. However, the self-exclusion method strategy is as bogus and one sided as the VLT machines.

The Fifth Estate show illustrates how someone on the self-exclusion list can enter a casino unimpeded in spite of being on the list and started gambling without ever being confronted or asked to leave.

The self-exclusion register has no teeth and is deliberately ineffectual because the casinos and the gaming commissions know that the their real prize money come from the gambling addicts.

It is a criminal when governments sound off vacuously and sanctimoniously about addictions while they also promote and encourage gambling as “entertainment.” It is morally reprehensible and predatory for any government to profit so enormously from addicts in what is blatantly a fixed game.


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