Alberta Gamblers Facing $250 Fine For 'Self Imposed Contract' BreechOctober 10, 2009 8:17 am
The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission (AGLC) has been running a voluntary self-exclusion program for problem gamblers and come November 1st any signed up member found gambling could be fined with a $250 penalty.
So far around 1,600 people have signed up to the program which “deter individuals from violating their agreements” by circulating their names and photos to gambling businesses across the province. The new penalty fine will be introduced as the AGLC “felt there was a need for a consequence to help individuals from violating their self-exclusion agreements,” said spokeswoman Lynn Hutchings-Mah.
In fact, Alberta is debating whether to extend the program and compel all casino visitors to show photo identification before entry is allowed, similar to the system used in Dutch casinos.
“It’s a big change culturally for the province, for our industry. We have to be very careful in how we approach these things,” Kent Verlik from AGLC’s social responsibility division said, and he highlighted the need to study and gauge whether the general public were willing to accept such a requirement first.
Canadian casinos have been struggling to enforce a similar system and have faced difficulties in identifying returning problem gamblers from their manual photo records, thus laying themselves open to law suits.
The Canadian government is seen as further hindering the process with government-owned casinos recognising that a third of their revenue is provided by problem gamblers and thus offering a multitude of free incentives to them in order to ensure continued custom. As Ontario’s New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath explained:
“When you look at who it is who’s providing at least a fair chunk of the change that’s coming into the casino doors, it’s coming from problem gamblers. These … high-rollers are the very same ones who are often the most addicted gamblers, are often being lured back into the casinos with their VIP perks.”
In Alberta, in addition to the $250 fine, the AGLC have other tools in their armoury to help problem gamblers, stemming from its 2007 recommendation report. These include mandatory three-hour courses at casinos and involve roundtables, group discussions and advice ‘for participants before they leave the program.’