The Slot Machine Issue in Ottawa
Ottawa’s slot machine facility has earned hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers since it opened to players in 2000. But ten years later, there is still controversy about whether it benefits or harms the community. The Rideau Carleton Raceway unveiled a slots casino with 1,250 slot machines where players can try their luck on February 16th, 2010.
The slot games like “Rich Little Piggies” and “Treasures of the Acropolis” attracted a lot of players on the site’s opening day. Before that, the raceway, which opened in 1962 on Albion Road, had offered only horse races and betting. In the past ten years, at least fifteen million people have come to enjoy the slot machines in Ottawa.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation said that in the 2008-2009 fiscal years, the slot machines took in more than $140 million. The Ontario Lottery is a provincial agency that manages casinos, lotteries and slots establishments at horse racing tracks in Ontario. Last year, about $3 million of the Rideau Carleton Raceway’s slot revenues went to Ottawa.
Osgood Coun. Doug Thompson said on February 16th, 2010 that the slot casino in his area has contributed more than $35 million in the past ten years to Ottawa and the former city of Gloucester. Thompson added that the slots facility also supports a lot of non-profit organizations, attracts a lot of tourists from the eastern portion of Ontario and provides more than 285 jobs.
But “Mary, a resident of Ottawa who is currently undergoing treatment for gaming addiction, said that she does not think that the benefits are worth the great costs. A 2005 study made by the Responsible Gambling Council, a non-profit group that studies gambling and educates the public, estimated that 3.4% of Ontario are gambling addicts. That is lower than the 4.8% estimate made by the University of Lethbridge researchers in 2003 study.
The study also stated that problem gamblers contribute about 36% of casino revenues. The University of Lethbridge study, which was commissioned by the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Center, based their estimates on the answers of 2,42 residents surveyed by phone as well as detailed journals of 92 problems gamers and 272 individuals with gaming problems.
The research center is an independent group supported by the Ontario Ministry of Health. When questioned about the study, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) questioned the accuracy of the results, saying that the sample size of the researchers are very small.