Gold card system could flag gambling addicts: doctors
Published Tuesday, June 15, 2010 10:42AM PDT
A system of player rewards that tracks B.C. gamblers by how much money they spend every day all over the province could be re-jigged to provide an early warning system for problem gamblers, according to gambling experts.
Using a card system in that way would put the B.C. Lottery Corporation in line with protections for problem gamblers used in the Netherlands, and put it far ahead of a card system used by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, said Dr. Robert Williams of the University of Lethbridge.
"We have lots of problem gamblers and we do virtually nothing to deter that," said Dr. Williams, who has studied gambling all over the world. "These player cards have a lot of potential that's being underutilized."
"This information is some of the best information that could be used to intervene early because once people develop an addiction it's hard to treat. Nip it in the bud," he said.
Problem gambler "Shannon" -- whose identity CTV has agreed to protect -- wishes someone had used a system like that to detect her when she was in the casino before she lost some $40,000.
"They have a little card that you put into the machine every time you gamble," she said. "You should have to register, and if (you're on the self-exclusion list) a light should go on and they should escort you out."
Problem players can't rely on themselves, she said. "You lose control," she said. "It's an addiction."
Players can sign up for the BC Gold Card to get prizes and to receive a reward of $1 for every $200 they gamble. There are 491,827 cardholders, who received $29.1 million worth of rewards in the last fiscal year, according to BCLC.
BCLC and Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for gaming, have both agreed to review protections for problem gamblers after a CTV News investigation revealed gambling addicts who had asked to stay out met zero resistance when they arrived to put money into slot machines.
Holland Casino in the Netherlands has a registration system that IDs would-be gamblers at the door. If the gamblers come more than a set number of times in a month, they are flagged for a problem gambling review.
In Nova Scotia, the gaming company has created a pilot project of "Informed Player Choice Systems" that can control the time and the amount of money each gambler plays on video lottery terminals.
However, as the cards are voluntary, a gambling addict could simply remove the card and continue gambling.
Local casinos are having a lukewarm reaction to the prospect of tracking card systems.
"It's important to monitor and see the benefits of a program like that," said Howard Blank of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.
Privacy concerns might also deter the launch of such a monitoring program, he said.
To read more from CTV's High Stakes investigative series, click here.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward and Mi-Jung Lee