Letter to the Editor – Ottawa Citizen

We recognize the risks associated with gambling and the serious effects they can have on people and families. That’s why we deal with problem gambling head-on.  With contributions from OLG, Ontario has the best funded Responsible Gambling program in North America. Each year, approximately $50 million is spent on researching, preventing and mitigating problem gambling. This includes funding for free problem gambling counseling services at 52 locations across Ontario, including four centres in Ottawa—Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Amethyst Women's Addiction Centre, Centretown Community Health Centre and Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services.  OLG works to prevent problem gambling from occurring in the first place, and to provide a bridge to assistance for those who need it. We have Responsible Gambling Centres at all of our sites and our eight largest sites are supported by staff from the Responsible Gambling Council. In addition, over 7,200 of OLG’s front-line staff have received training developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to recognize and respond to players who ask for help.  Plans for potential new or expanded slot and casino facilities are based on a moderate evolution of a gambling model available to Ontarians since the mid-1990s. This fact is critical when discussing questions related to potential long term increases in problem gambling rates.  A 2007 study of problem gambling literature for Canadian Gaming Association found that while the introduction of new forms of gambling result in an initial increase in problem gambling prevalence, this is followed by a plateau and a decline in these rates over time. Furthermore, gambling is not new to Ottawa. For more than 13 years, the city has had a gaming facility at Rideau Carleton Raceway.  OLG is already working on solutions related to a number of the ideas raised in Ottawa’s Public Health report, including building time and money limits into the slot machine of the future.  OLG is also working on using data analysis to drive direct feedback to players based on individual behavior and providing players with histories of their play. In addition, going forward, we will seek innovative solutions for the placement of ATMs to address RG concerns while still meeting the expectations of the 95 per cent of customers who don’t have a problem.  At OLG, responsible gambling is a central focus and a driving force behind our business. We realize there are risks associated with gambling and we deal with them head-on. The bottom line is we don’t want problem gamblers playing our games.  Paul Pellizzari Executive Director, Policy & Social Responsibility