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Letter: The 'blitz' of gambling ads on TV is concerning

Are the revenues gained worth the cost to society in ruined lives and social problems caused by problem gambling? this Port Coquitlam letter writer asks.

The Editor,

I write this to express my profound disappointment at the proliferation of advertised opportunities to gamble on sports — specifically, for example, the ads that are aimed at NHL fans on TV networks in Canada.

It is common to view several short ads per hour for different online gambling sites ("gaming" is the supposedly innocuous term used, but make no mistake, it is gambling that is the activity promoted).

Younger audiences — and mostly younger males, I would venture to say, when I consider my 23-year-old son and his friends — are targeted by past and current NHL stars with iconic, legendary status in Canada, to participate.

Government gambling sites with enticing slogans, such as the BCLC, have frequent ads during televised hockey games, and like private, corporate gambling sites use well-known sports personalities to promote lottery ticket purchases.

They advise "know your limit, play within it.”

But this trite admonition ignores the true, harmful effects of gambling. It is clear that gambling is not just an innocuous pastime.

Statistics Canada posted a study online on Aug. 9, 2022, titled "Who gambles and who experiences gambling problems in Canada."

Here are some of the findings:

  • Males were reported to more likely to be at moderate-to-severe risk of problems related to gambling
  • Gambling problems can lead to marital breakdown, bankruptcy or financial hardship, suicide, crime, reduced health and increased use of alcohol and other substances
  • It has been estimated that the gambling related burden of harm is similar in magnitude to major depressive disorder, or alcohol misuse and dependence
  • Gambling rates among First Nations males (78.6%) and females (73.6%) were higher than those reported by the non- Indigenous population
  • 1.6 per cent (304, 000) of Canadians who reported gambling in the past year were at moderate-to-severe risk of problem gambling

With the advent of online gambling, it is now easier than ever to gamble.

Of course, there are programs offered by government to attempt to remediate problem gambling just as there are programs to address alcohol and drug misuse, as well as addiction to smoking.

It should be pointed out that gambling, use of alcohol, as well as smoking tobacco products, are all legal; however, advertising and promotion of gambling is the only activity of the aforementioned that is permitted in law.

Given that the negative effects of gambling are real and measurable (the Statistics Canada report quoted above is quite comprehensive regarding problem gambling), it does seem time for the provincial government to regulate advertising and promoting of an activity proven to be harmful.

Further, the government is clearly in the gambling business to reap ever greater revenues.

Are the revenues gained worth the cost to society in ruined lives and social problems caused by problem gambling?

It is not realistic to ban gambling — Prohibition style — but allowing unfettered promotion of gambling to the most vulnerable and Indigenous populations in Canada is unconscionable.

I venture to state that now is the time for BC's government to regulate the advertising of the gambling industry, just as advertising of other potentially harmful activities such as alcohol, tobacco is regulated.

The blitz of gambling ads that my 23-year-old son and friends are subjected to as never before is very concerning.

Steve Vandervelden

Port Coquitlam