Edited by James F. Cosgrove and Thomas R. Klassen
Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2009
Legalized gambling has expanded dramatically in Canada and worldwide over the past few decades. Casino State explains the two amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (1969 and 1985) that granted provincial governments the authority to “manage and conduct” gambling. The book shows that problem gambling was not considered as a major issue of concern during the time that the Criminal Code amendments were passed but that the expansion of gambling has lead to a dramatic increase in problem gambling in Canada, especially for those who play Electronic Gambling Machines (EGMs) such as slot machines and Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).
As gambling has increased the provinces have become dependent on the income from the gambling. Today in most provinces several percent of the provincial revenue is from gambling. There is a conflict with the province’s dependence on this revenue and the fact that the province owns, manages, and regulates gambling. This conflict means that provinces aggressively promote and expand gambling, which has lead to increased provincial revenues, and yet the effects of gambling on those who become addicted is a very serious public health concern.
Part One provides valuable historical information including the history of gambling in Canada and how it has grown from a means of raising money for churches and not-for-profit organizations to a multi-billion dollar business. Part Two discusses the gambling policies in Canada and contrasts them with the gambling policies in Australia. Part Three uses Ontario and Nova Scotia as case studies of provincial gambling expansion. Part Four ends the book with relevant and focused chapters on gambling-related crime and youth gambling.
I finished the book with a broader understanding of the two Criminal Code amendments and how they have lead to a dramatic rise in problem gambling. More importantly, upon finishing the book I have a deep sense of concern for the fact that those who are concerned with public health in general, and problem gambling in particular, were not consulted as the Criminal Code amendments were considered and made. Indeed, those concerned with public health and problem gambling should have been at the heart of the gambling expansion decisions so that as gambling became pervasive all decisions should have been informed by public health rather than having problem gambling as an afterthought. Research should have been conducted before major gambling expansion occurred in Canada. The expansion happened so quickly that problem gambling researchers today are still in their early stages of studying some serious problem gambling issues, such as the addictiveness of EGMs, which should have been studied before the tens of thousands of EGMs were put into use in Canada over the past two decades.
University of Waterloo