Do the benefits of provincial revenue from gambling outweigh the social ills associated with it?
Most Canadians think so, a new Angus Reid Institute survey says.
The survey, conducted Aug. 8-12, sought opinion on a variety of gambling-related issues, including the role of government and the games that do the most harm.
Manitobans are OK with the way their government is raising revenue through gambling, as are residents of most other provinces, the survey released Thursday suggests.
An independent study commissioned by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs earlier this year revealed this province has the most VLTs per capita in Canada — trailing only Quebec in total number of gaming machines — and more money is spent per adult at VLTs here than anywhere else in the country. It reported that Manitobans put more than $1.5 billion into VLTs annually and go home with about $1.2 billion in winnings.
The Angus Reid survey points out that Manitoba gets the highest percentage of its provincial revenue from gambling — 5.75 per cent — compared to 2.84 per cent in the Atlantic provinces. The national average is 4.56 per cent.
While a majority — 63 per cent nationally, 64 per cent in Manitoba — say provincial involvement in gambling is, at minimum, "more good than bad," the poll also finds just nine per cent of Canadians support expanded government involvement in gambling. More than four times that many (38 per cent) would like to see a reduction in government's role. In Manitoba, 25 per cent of respondents say they want the province to reduce its involvement or get out of the gaming business altogether. Another 13 per cent here believe the province should expand its role.
One in four Canadians (26 per cent) report they are personally affected by problem gambling, either because they’re struggling with addiction or they have a close relationship with someone who is. Of those who are personally affected by gambling — they or someone in their household has an addiction — 55 per cent said the government of their province does enough to help.
Survey respondents were asked to identify the type of gambling that creates the most harm. Online gaming was cited by 56 per cent as the most harmful, followed by VLTs at a bar (50 per cent), casino slot machines and games (46 per cent), betting or playing VLTs at racetracks (40 per cent), sports betting (34 per cent), lottery tickets (17 per cent) and charitable gambling, such as church bingos and 50/50 draws (nine per cent). Thirty per cent said none of these are harmful to most participants. People with a personal connection are more likely than the general population to say each type of gambling is harmful to participants, the survey says.
The national figures show that Manitoba numbers notwithstanding, just 14 per cent of Canadians say they've played VLTs at a bar. The results reveal 82 per cent of Canadians have purchased lottery tickets, 43 per cent have participated in charitable gambling, 32 per cent have gambled at a casino, 14 per cent have gambled online, 13 per cent have wagered on sports and 10 per cent have bet at a racetrack.
The survey was conducted among a representative randomized sample of 1,518 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by the Angus Reid Institute.