Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A bad bet

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Provincial lottery agencies are watching a big chunk of business bleed away because young people -- the future -- are less likely to buy lottery or scratch tickets. They are more likely to take their chances online, a growing gaming arena. In Manitoba, slipping gaming revenues have sparked concern at the Crown operating agency, which as a result is transferring less profit into the provincial treasury. The call has gone out for research into what the under-35 crowd wants.

The Manitoba Lotteries Corp. identified falling interest in lottery tickets years ago in a review of its declining revenues from casinos, lotteries and VLTs. In 2013, it dumped $298 million into provincial coffers compared with $343 million in 2012. It bought new VLTs, revamped its casinos and now is targeting the young-adult market to arrest the slide.

This is tenuous ground for provincial governments, which covet the role of operator (maximum returns) while also acting as regulator. Manitoba's government hands these roles to Crown agencies, but it appoints the boards and scoops up all profits. It's an untenable conflict. Given that young adults are more likely to develop gaming addictions, it is clear where the public interest lies.

The province should turn over operations to private entities and concentrate on regulating and taxing them and funding research into gaming habits, addictions and factors that protect players from falling prey to unlikely odds.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2014 A8

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