How Gambling Influences Canadian Tourism Industry

These data reinforce a general pattern. While the majority of Canadians have no strong opinion on the positive or negative aspects of gambling, of those with strong opinions, negative opinions are greater in number. Only a small minority of Canadians strongly favour gambling. The following analysis considers some factors that shape opinion on the impact gambling has upon communities.

Gambling proponents argue that gambling activity brings tourist dollars to a community. Tourism studies suggest that gambling can have a positive economic benefit on a region IF sufficient revenues are drawn from outside the community; otherwise gambling revenue will only be created at the expense of surrounding businesses.

To evaluate the impact of tourism benefits, respondents were asked whether they agree or disagree that their province Òneeds gambling to attract tourists.Ó As shown in Figure 33, few respondents agree with this statement. Only 35% agree (12% strongly agreeing) that tourism needs gambling, and 59% feel that gambling is not needed to support tourism (37% strongly disagreeing). These results should not be interpreted as suggesting that respondents believe that gambling is irrelevant to tourism promotion. Rather, the question asked whether the tourism industry needs gambling venues, to which the answer was a clear “no.”

Because some provinces currently operate casinos targeted at tourists (so-called Òdestination casinosÓ), a high degree of regional variation in attitudes was anticipated. In particular, it could be expected that those regions with large tourism-based gambling industries (Ontario and Quebec) would feel more favourably. Indeed data suggest that, Ontario and Quebec respondents are more favourable towards the need for gambling to promote tourism (42% and 46% agreeing respectively). However, in neither region do the majority agree with the need for gambling. Disagreement is the strongest in the Prairie and Atlantic regions. Nearly half of all respondents in the Prairie region strongly disagree (73% disagreeing overall) and two-thirds of Atlantic respondents strongly disagree (84% disagreeing overall) with the need for gambling to promote tourism. Not surprisingly, these regions also have the least tourism-based gambling in operation, although some provinces (Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia) operate resort-style casinos in an attempt to attract more tourism dollars.

Gambling is also argued to have a positive economic development impacts through construction jobs, direct gambling- sector employment, and employment in gambling-related services. Counter-arguments suggest that because gambling creates no new product, employment benefits come at the expense of job losses in surrounding business. The assumed benefits are only a transfer of employment from other sectors to gambling-based positions. This argument is strengthened by the popularity of electronic-based gambling. The majority of gambling revenue in Canada is generated from lottery, video lottery, and slot machine-based gambling, from which there are relatively few employment-related benefits.

FIGURE 33: DO YOU AGREE THAT: “(province) needs gambling to attract tourists”
Strongly Agree – 12%
Somewhat Agree – 24%
Neither – 5%
Somewhat Disagree – 22%
Strongly Disagree – 37