This Wednesday, Loto-Québec reported that it is in discussions to launch a mini-casino close to the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal, however, not everyone is content with the project. Shortly after the news, gambling experts expressed their concerns with the project, as increased availability of slots and sports betting machines could cause problem gambling among bettors.
The Crown agency’s CEO Jean-François Bergeron shared its plans for the gambling venue this week during a radio interview. The plan is to rent the now non-operational 1909 Taverne Moderne, a former bar on des Canadiens-de-Montréal Avenue, and place hundreds of video gambling machines in it. This way it would attract sports fans from the close-by Bell Centre.
Experts Share Their Opinion
However, not everyone is fond of the idea of a mini-casino in downtown Montreal. Dr. Jeff Derevensky, head of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours shared that gambling accessibility and availability are tied to problem gambling. He said it will potentially give opportunity for people to develop a gambling problem or addiction.
A study from 2017 discovered that the Bell Centre neighbourhood already has a population which is more vulnerable to problem gambling. Meanwhile, experts also cited that provincial casinos and gaming halls are still targets and are prone to money laundering schemes by organized crime. A while back the agency tried to launch a casino on the island, but public backlash prevented it.
On Wednesday, finance minister, Eric Girard, said that the government would approve the project if two conditions are met by the Crown corporation. The first one is to have public health as a priority, and the second one would be to try to ensure that if it becomes reality, the project would move toward an overall decrease in video lottery terminals across the province.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante shared that she also wants to hear public health to be a priority before any plan is greenlit. She noted that the Crown wished to make sure that there is social acceptability for the project, however, she is also aware of the fact that the new casino could turn out to be problematic for those who already suffer from gambling issues.
Sylvia Kairouz, a professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Concordia University cited research which shows that 70% of revenue from slot machines comes from 3% of those who play, and they are usually problem gamblers. She explained that slots are not an ordinary commodity and that they can be harmful to players.
Problem Gambling in Rising
Another alarming fact is that in May 2022, Loto-Québec reported that the number of self-excluded bettors on its online platform has hit its highest point since 1993. The Crown corporation also revealed that or 2020-2021, gamblers who resorted to excluding themselves from online gaming reached more than 7,300 people, which is almost double the last year’s number.
Source: “Loto-Québec’s plan to open mini casino near Bell Centre panned by gambling addiction experts” CBC News, February 22, 2023