Tsawwassen First Nation may roll dice on new casino, despite addiction risk
The Tsawwassen First Nation is hinting it’s going to be the third local government in the Lower Mainland to express interest in a new casino – even as CTV News has mapped how that possible new casino might change rates of problem gambling in those communities.
The First Nation would join Delta and the City of North Vancouver in going to the next stage of the process with the B.C. Lottery Corporation that could bring millions in revenue to those governments.
“BCLC will be announcing next week,” said Andrea Jacobs, the executive assistant to the chief, in an e-mail to CTV News. “TFN (Tsawwassen First Nation) will comment at that time.”
Three remaining cities approached by BCLC – Surrey, the District of North Vancouver, and West Vancouver – confirmed they were not in the running.
Leaders at two remaining First Nations governments didn’t return calls, but those answering the phones at band offices said they were unaware of any moves to bring a casino to the Squamish First Nation or the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.
BCLC estimates a new facility south of the Fraser River would generate up to $50 million in annual revenue and could contribute up to $3 million each year to the host city.
“It’s too easy. It’s availability that’s the factor. If it’s too easy to get to the casino that can be a problem,” said Dr. Nigel Turner of the Centre For Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto.
He said it’s only a small percentage of the population that will be gambling addicts, but proximity to a casino is one predictor that those people will live up to that potential.
“There will be more people who gamble and there will be more people who lose control of their gambling,” he said.
But the B.C. Lottery Corporation said problem gambling in B.C. is actually on the decline.
“Introductions of new forms of gambling may result in an initial increase of the problem gambling prevalence, followed by a plateau or a decline in these rates over time,” a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
And BCLC says it has programs that can help gambling addicts, including the Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program, where gamblers promise not to return to casinos.
About three-quarters of those registrants are problem gamblers, said Dr. Luke Clark of the Centre for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia.
“We think about problem gambling as a form of behavioral addiction,” Clark said. “It’s a compulsive condition associated with withdrawal, and it causes a range of different negative consequences on a person.
“Around the world there is a lot of data that problem gambling incidence is higher nearer to gambling venues,” he said.
To see that effect in action, CTV News made a freedom of information request for geographical data of all of the British Columbians registered in the Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program.
The map below shows problem gambling rates and the locations of B.C.'s casinos.
The map produced shows problem gambling rates by “Forward Sortation Area” – the first three letters of a postal code.
The worst rate in the province is in the V2L postal code in Prince George, where one in 135 people are registered for the Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program, or about 0.74 per cent of the population.
In the forward sortation areas around Prince Rupert and Quesnel, the numbers are one in 214 people and one in 224 people respectively, about 0.47 and 0.45 per cent.
The highest rate in the Lower Mainland was in two forward sortation areas in Burnaby, V5M and V5H, around one in 290 people or 0.34 per cent.
But areas of the Lower Mainland with no casinos nearby, such as Delta, rates were as little as 0.07 per cent, or one in 1400 people. In the V7H forward sortation area in the North Shore, there were no registered problem gamblers in an area with a population of 12,418 people.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she was open to having a casino to provide something for young people to do in the suburb that doesn’t require going through the George Massey Tunnel.
“I’m looking for something that is more entertaining for young people, where you can have dinner and dance,” she said.
But she said she wants city council to consider the social cost as well.
“We’ll have to be aware of that and council will have to consider that as well,” she said.