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EDITORIAL: Kicking the habit

The provincial government is the real enabler when it comes to gambling, liquor and tobacco – and revenues are the reason why.

Admitted problem gambler Joyce Ross said her lawsuit against the BC Lottery Corporation was not about recouping her own losses, but exposing flaws in BCLC’s voluntary-exclusion gamblers program to protect others in future.

But with all due deference, it’s hard to see the North Delta woman’s recent lawsuit, in which she alleged she lost $78,000 at Surrey’s Fraser Downs and Langley’s Cascades casinos between 2007 and 2010 – in spite of having signed herself into the voluntary exclusion program – as more than another gamble that failed to pay off.

It is churlish to want to crow at another’s misfortune. Gambling has been identified as an addiction, and those unwilling to walk in the shoes of addicts of all kinds, or at least attempt to understand their problems, show a want of empathy.

Addiction behaviours – whether linked to gambling, smoking, drinking, soft or hard drugs or other activities – by their very definition have far exceeded the plane where rational decision making enter the picture. By the time someone is classed as an addict, he or she has gone beyond the point of choosing to do something of their own free will, even though those of us who don’t share that particular addiction struggle to understand this.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Truscott – in finding the casinos were not negligent – was right to conclude that gamblers, like Ross, who volunteer for self–exclusion and then try to cheat the system by avoiding detection, should not be given special treatment.

He said it was Ross’ primary responsibility to stay out of the casinos. In a practical sense, as he pointed out, to award her money because she was in the self-exclusion program would only encourage other gamblers to join the program to make similar claims.

Rather than suing BCLC, Ross’ best hope of changing the system would be to run for provincial office on an anti-gambling platform.

Then she would participate in a forum directly with the unseen partner in all problem gambling scenarios, and the biggest problem gambler in B.C. – all BCLC disclaimers and admonitions to “know your limit and stay within it” notwithstanding.

Principal enabler and beneficiary of problem gambling, liquor and tobacco consumption among the people of B.C. is the provincial government – and it seems unwilling, and unable, to kick the habit of the revenues it gathers from others’ addictions.