Researchers found that problem gamblers tend to be drawn to specific types of games. In Quebec, slot machines, including video lottery terminals, are by far the biggest draw.
Mike Groll / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Premier François Legault suggested on Wednesday that Quebec may once again rethink its relationship with video lottery terminals (VLTs) in the wake of a study that suggests problem gamblers are inordinately filling government coffers.“I don’t like those poker machines,” Legault told reporters on his way into question period. “We last year reduced (the number) from 11,000 to 10,000. Do we need to do more? Maybe.“The important thing is to make sure we don’t have these kind of machines in vulnerable areas.”However, the Concordia University professor who is co-author of the international study contends that locating VLTs in vulnerable areas is a big part of the problem in Quebec.In a statement Wednesday, Sylvia Kairouz, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology, notes that VLTs are disproportionately found in less economically privileged areas.“We know that these machines are concentrated in neighbourhoods that are more deprived,” she said. “We are making them more accessible to people with lower incomes and more adversity in their lives. These people turn to these machines to escape some difficult realities. We have given them easy and accessible solutions that could have very negative, harmful consequences.”Researchers at Concordia and in Germany and France looked at the amounts people spend gambling and the frequency they gamble in the three jurisdictions. They found that even though Quebec, France and Germany have different gambling cultures and different favoured modes of gambling, spending was always concentrated among small groups.The study divided gamblers into three categories: non-problem gamblers, problem gamblers and pathological gamblers. According to the study’s figures, “problematic and pathological gamblers jointly account for 40.2 per cent of all gambling expenses in France, 31.6 per cent in Quebec and 32 per cent in Germany.”But the players in these categories make up only 4.8 per cent of the gamblers in France, 2.7 per cent in Quebec and 4.6 per cent in Germany.The researchers also found that problem gamblers tend to be drawn to specific types of games. In Quebec, slot machines, including video lottery terminals, are by far the biggest draw, followed by table games and poker.Kairouz notes that most problem gamblers tend to be less affluent and less educated than non-problem gamblers, making this a social issue rather than simply a behavioural one.“It becomes a question of how a society’s wealth is circulating,” she says. “It comes from the pockets of one group and is distributed to the greater population. In our view, that is not equitable.”Kairouz, who says she is not anti-gambling and that the vast majority of people who gamble do so without any issues, said she hopes the study will be “an eye-opener for decision-makers and gambling regulators.”Related