The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) has commissioned two new reports questioning a potential link between legalising online gambling and an increase in problem gambling.
According to CBC News, the two reports came to contrasting conclusions about whether online gambling leads to a higher degree of unhealthy gambling behaviour.
The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC), the author of the first report, noted that the causal link between online gambling and gambling problems is not clearly established. However, the RGC remains wary of the impacts of online gambling on at-risk gamblers.
With iGaming rapidly expanding and further development expected, Canadian regulators are continuing to gather evidence on whether or not certain parts of the gambling experience pose a danger to consumers, and are seeking to implement necessary measures to stop this process.
According to the final evidence in the report obtained by CBC, there is a lack of solid evidence suggesting that online gambling may be related to a higher incidence of problem gambling behaviour, with the report basing its findings on provinces in Canada where such forms are allowed.
However, one of the reports by Richard Wood argued that at-risk players may suffer greatly from online gambling. The RGC did outline possible risk factors, saying that regulators should be aware of socially isolated individuals who could make bad decisions, such as spending more on gambling.
The RGC’s report also examined the use of credit cards and the risk they pose in online gambling. In leading gambling jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and Australia, credit cards can’t be used for gambling.
It argued that pre-existing mental health issues may be further intensified by gambling, although it did not seem to account for the large existing offshore market.
ALC President and interim CEO Patrick Daigle said: “Our perspective on this is that the most irresponsible thing to do is nothing while these offshore illegal operators are taking money from Atlantic Canadians. The fact of the matter is, our citizens are already playing. And frankly, for the well-being of Atlantic Canadians, including Islanders, we just want to provide a safe and regulated alternative.”
CBC notes that Atlantic Lotto has been pitching the idea of a regional online casino to its four shareholder provinces to largely no avail for the last decade.
In August 2020, though, New Brunswick allowed ALC to launch a suite of new games for New Brunswick residents. Nova Scotia and P.E.I. are preparing to follow suit.
The ALC has described iGaming as an “opportunity” for the Eastern provinces to bring in millions in additional revenues amid the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ALC has already implemented tools to reduce online gambling risks to vulnerable consumers, such as training staff on responsible gambling and displaying the self-exclusion option in a visible place on its website home page. Players can also set specific spending limits.
However, the RGC report urges companies to produce a “harm-minimisations strategy” and see to its successful implementation as the Canadian gaming industry appears to continue moving down the path towards wider iGaming and sports betting options.