MANITOBA'S hospital lotteries have expanded in the years since they first began offering tickets for new houses, now offering vehicles, cash, iPads and gift cards. Health centres and their fundraisers have caught the fever for gaming, recognizing its lure for those who like to play the odds.
The lotteries play up the fact buying the ticket (or cut-rate bunches of them) puts money to good works -- health research, programs, equipment and technology. Some of the websites are vague about the specifics, but evidently on sale is the fact the $1-million home or the lakefront cottage is just a lucky draw away.
For some, however, there is a real dissonance when a health centre encourages gambling. As the commentary by the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the page opposite relates, problem gambling in Canada takes a very real toll on too many.
Manitoba's hospitals and their fundraisers exert few restraints for players in their lotteries. They could allow problem gamblers to bar themselves from buying into the lotteries or limit the number of tickets they sell. The lotteries could also help ticket buyers resist the temptation to supersize the bet by not offering deep discounts for buying in batches. The Manitoba Gaming Commission says the lotteries do not rank among the habits problem gamblers typically cite in treatment or in surveys. But, it concedes, this form of gambling hasn't been studied. The MGCC charges lotteries 1.5 per cent of gross revenues for a licence to hold a raffle.
The Manitoba government has not addressed the issue either. But this underscores the conflict government is in, trying to regulate this sector. While the province's general revenues receive no money from the gaming commission, the money raised for the various health purposes act as a savings to government, which is the primary funder of health. Hospitals themselves must recognize the risks of gambling and put in place options people can use to limit their play.