Deal us out of internet gambling

  • August 25, 2010
internet gamblingWithin two years anyone in Ontario with access to the Internet and a credit card will be able — and probably encouraged — to gamble in a government-run online betting parlour.

Cash poor and morally hobbled, the provincial government of Dalton McGuinty intends to bring legalized online gambling to Ontario by 2012 despite fears about dire social and spiritual consequences. To put this in language his betting public will appreciate, the premier’s decision is as unwise as drawing to an inside straight.

It used to be that large-scale, co-ordinated gambling syndicates were monopolized by organized crime. Over past decades, however, governments world-wide have been muscling in on this lucrative territory by launching lotteries and opening casinos, then spending millions on advertising campaigns to increase their take.  

It’s big business. Provincial governments across Canada are banking $14 billion annually from gambling, according to a 2008 StatsCan report. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says it generated $3.8 billion in economic activity last year and made $1.9 billion in profit. The launch of online gambling in Ontario is expected to bring in an additional $100 million to $500 million a year.

Governments should operate with a moral purpose but there are no redeeming moral qualities to online gambling. It preys on the vulnerable, lonely, depressed, unemployed and poor. The solitary world of online gambling can breed addiction which, in worst cases, causes family breakup, crime, bankruptcy, even suicide — maladies that call for government compassion and help, not web sites that enable destructive behaviour.

Online betting parlours are open to all adults but are especially alluring to young males. This is a particularly troubling aspect of this gaming strategy. The government is not only legitimizing this anti-social activity but intends to make it more accessible to a new generation of potential gaming junkies.

When the government becomes an online dealer it will be entering a business that preys on people. It is a greedy, materialistic, soulless business that takes advantage of human weakness. It will hook bettors with slick advertising campaigns (think “Happy Dance”) that offer the prospect of instant wealth and happiness. All you have to do is ante up.

The government argues that Ontarians are already betting millions of dollars out-of-province and that its new policy will keep much of that money at home, where gaming sites can be regulated and profits invested in health care and community projects. A snake-oil salesman would appreciate the  argument. Decent people should shudder.

Online gaming is an immoral way to bankroll social services. The government should fold up its cards and leave this table.

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