A CBC article published today outlines how the Ontario government could lose up to $550 million in annual revenue with the arrival of the online gambling market in Ontario ($2.8 billion over the next five years).
The projections, outlined in a private and confidential report to one of Canada's largest gaming companies, suggests that the province is set to lose money due to individuals spending more money on online gambling and moving away from land-based casino gambling (the taxation rate is reportedly 22% for online gambling and 55% for land-based casinos).
The counter-argument from the online gaming industry is that individuals who play online will simply continue to do so in this newly regulated market rather than on offshore sites, whilst those who accessed land-based casinos will continue to do so. (This argument may not be taking into account the huge impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all of our behaviors, both online and offline. Not to mention the effects that provincial restrictions have had on land-based casinos being able to open and operate at full capacity.)
What does this mean for those of us working with individuals affected by problem gambling? Some things to consider from the research about Internet Gambling (Gainsbury, S; 2015):
- It is easier to carry out online gambling in private, at any time or location.
- It is easy to place multiple bets rapidly/continuously including large wagers.
- Feedback and payouts are often rapid and instant, making it easier for someone to gamble continuously.
- Increased accessibility to internet gambling may increase access to gambling for tech-savvy youth.
- Digital forms of money (e.g. credit cards, electronic bank transfers and e-wallets) can lead to increased gambling and losses, as people feel that they are not spending ‘real’ money.
- Research suggests that while internet gambling does not cause gambling problems, internet gambling is more common among those highly involved in gambling, and for some individuals, can significantly contribute to gambling problems.
- Treatment and prevention strategies must be revisited to ensure that these are relevant and effective for Internet gamblers.
As outlined in many recommendations in the literature, the province can make sure that, as part of their commitment to responsible gambling, they enact strategies to safeguard and support individuals including targeted notifications (e.g. pop-up messages) and ensure that online self-exclusion is an accessible process.
Curious to see how iGaming Ontario (who are responsible for the oversight of this regulated market) and ensure "safe and responsible play". Personally I'd like to see some of the revenue from internet gambling re-directed to education and support resources for young people who may be particularly at risk of harmful online gambling.
Curious to hear what others think of the province's approach and trends we may need to know about as online gambling grows in popularity.