In The Conclusion about Canadian Gambling

Much like the gambling industry, Canadian’s attitudes and perceptions toward gambling are maturing and developing. On most survey questions, respondents had little difficulty formulating an opinion. This report has highlighted a number of the patterns in gambling attitudes that permeate CanadiansÕ thinking on the gambling issue. By means of conclusion, four overarching patterns warrant additional comment:

1. THE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN PUBLIC OPINION AND GAMBLING POLICY. In a number of policy areas, current provincial regulations run counter to prevailing public attitudes. In particular, government policies towards VLTs, charitable gambling, First Nations gambling, public accountability, and the negative impact of problem gambling do not to reflect the prevailing public attitudes or desires. It is unclear whether these incongruencies are sustainable given the volatility of some issues (e.g., VLTs) and the strength of opinion on others (e.g., public accountability, problem gambling treatment). In any event, it is reasonable to expect that these issues will continue to dominate policy debates.

2. REGIONAL VARIATION. As stated at the outset, Canada is characterized by a patchwork of different gambling policies. Provincial control over gambling has created markedly different gambling environments in the different regions. This policy patchwork is visible in the data; nearly every issue reveals statistically significant variations among the regions. There are measurable differences in gambling tolerance levels in the various regions. The continuum in Figure 40 represents an analysis of gambling tolerance levels in the various regions based on the survey data. This measurement considers both the strength of the issue and the strength of regional opinions. Although not a perfect measure, the data do clearly suggest that the Atlantic region represents the lowest level of gambling tolerance and Ontario the highest. The gaps between region reflect the relative strength of opinion; the Prairies and Quebec are each relatively close in tolerance with BC being only somewhat less tolerant.

3. DIVIDED OPINIONS. The gambling debate in Canada appears to be driven primarily by the smaller groups with strong opinions. While on the whole, the population is fairly tolerant of gambling, those with stronger opinions are less tolerant. Further, the strength of opinions grows more negative the closer respondents get to experiencing a personal impact. Much of the debate in Canada is likely generated by these smaller groups with strong opinions and real negative gambling experiences, and not by the larger more tolerant mass public whose attitudes are not guided by personal experiences, but by perceptions.

4. ACCEPTANCE OF GAMBLING. For the most part, Canadians tolerate current levels of gambling. However, the results suggest that this acceptance is linked to feelings of inevitability. This tolerance is measurably linked to the importance that Canadians place upon gambling as a revenue source for governments and charities. The perception of gambling’s importance appears to relate more to its success as a government program of generating revenue than its entertainment or economic development benefits.

In summary, Canadians recognize that, on balance, gambling generates more harm that benefit but feel it to be an acceptable and inevitable an part of our culture. In exchange for the opportunity to maximize gambling revenues, provincial governments accept the responsibility to determine levels of gambling that are both publically acceptable and that limit harm. Based on this survey of Canadian attitudes, it is clear that in some policy areas governments have yet to achieve full success. These discrepancies will undoubtedly form the crux of the gambling debate in the coming years, particularly in those regions where gambling policy appears most at odds with current public opinion.