An open letter to the Minister Of Health Ottawa

 

Dear Minister Sousa,

 

I have studied the response that you sent me on October 10th on behalf of the Honourable Minister Eric Hoskins. In my role as consumer advocate in relation to legalized gaming and as a therapist to compulsive gamblers, I follow the stages of gambling expansion with great interest. I will debate the issues addressed in your response point by point.

 

Initially, my letter outlining the dangers of expanding gambling was sent to the Minister of Health and long-term care because the idea of expanding gambling opportunity in the GTA exposes more people to the risk of becoming problem or pathological gamblers. The Minister chose to have you, the Minister in charge of OLG to respond to issues that were addressed to him. The magnitude of OLG’s proposal to increase gambling opportunities requires an impact study be done before any decisions are made. There needs to be input from the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety regardless of whether or not municipalities want a new site developed.

 

In regard to your praise of the government and OLG’s commitment to ensure responsible gambling programs are both effective and up to date, I suggest that is not entirely factual.

I have presented a paper in Halifax, Responsible Gambling; Whose Responsibility Is It (2003) where I shared the podium with Ralph Nader, and a paper in Niagara Falls, at the 2005 conference presented by the Responsible Gambling Council entitled, Problem Gambling; An Oxymoron? Both of which counter your claim. Responsible gambling is something no addict understands. Therein lays the critical harm to the citizens of this province and all of Canada.

 

Regrettably, governments are becoming addicted to the revenue. In a study conducted by Le Devoir every dollar of revenue carries a three dollar social cost. Throughout history, gambling addiction has resulted in the highest rate of suicides for any addiction and caused desperate people to resort to crime to pay their debts or continue gambling. And now, as gambling continues to expand throughout the country, the number of problem gamblers continues to increase. (Source: California Council on Compulsive Gambling)

 

Insofar as your assessment that OLG takes underage gambling and age verification very seriously, it would be wonderful if that were true. I was part of a documentary on CTV’s W- Five entitled Winners and Losers. In the segment filmed with a hidden camera at Casino Niagara we saw young people entering the casino floor while two security staff that should have been checking ID was off to one side having a conversation.

 

Finally, as you stated, with respect to a casino in Toronto, on August 8, 2017, OLG announced that Great Canadian Gaming and Brookfield Properties were chosen as the successful proponent to operate gaming in the GTA which includes OLG Slots at Woodbine racetrack, Great Blue Heron casino in Port Perry and the OLG Slots at Ajax Downs racetrack.

 

 

My question in a letter to the Minister of Justice on July 24, 2017 was as follows: When the amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada regarding 207.7 lottery schemes took place, there were certain conditions that applied. It was stated that the provincial governments were authorized to conduct and manage the games, with the revenue going to public good, charities, or religious organizations.

 

Therefore, Crown Corporations (Loto-Quebec, OLGC, BCLC , etc.) were formed to conduct and manage all lottery schemes. However, some of these Crown Corporations appear to be operating outside the law. For example, in time OlGC began to outsource the operation of Windsor Casino to Caesars (circumventing the provisions of the Criminal Code) and diverting funds to Caesars, contrary to the original intent of the amendments. Since the move went unchallenged, other jurisdictions continued to do the same. Most recently OLG partnered with Hardrock Café to build a hotel/casino in Ottawa.

 

On September 21st the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould responded: It may be helpful for you to know that, while the Parliament of Canada is responsible for enacting criminal law, the administration of justice, including the prosecution of Criminal Code offences, is the responsibility of the provincial governments. Accordingly, if you have not already done so, you may wish to share your concerns with the appropriate provincial authorities. It is the provincial authorities that are breaking the laws. Am I to expect they will prosecute themselves?

 

In conclusion, I have been sent by the Ministers to deal with bureaucrats who are avoiding the issues. If we cannot get some closure on these issues privately, I will go to the opposition government and to mass media to further recruit and stimulate more public support.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Sol Boxenbaum

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