Letter to the Editor re: CasinoIssued: Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Much has been debated lately about a Sudbury casino expansion. In 2013, the Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts considered this topic and encouraged the Council of the day to carefully consider the anticipated health impacts of expanded gambling. And then as now, we know that these health impacts are unevenly spread. As with many health and social issues, the poorer among us will bear the heavier burden of problem gambling. No matter how the current Council proceeds, it will be critical to ensure supports are in place to assist the most vulnerable Sudburians.
In Canada and elsewhere, evidence shows that those with the most to lose from gambling (that is, the poor) typically lose the most. Even if high-income households may spend more in terms of absolute dollars on gambling, evidence shows that lower-income households spend a higher percentage of their incomes on gambling.
Negative health and social impacts of gambling occur at individual, family, and community levels. At the individual level, problem gambling is linked with physical and mental illness, substance use, risk of multiple addictions, financial hardship, social isolation, and domestic violence and dysfunction. At the family level, these impacts include relationship or family breakdown and violence, poverty, and stigma and social isolation. In the community, the impacts of problem gambling are felt by strains to social supports needed for individuals and their families, as well as by local businesses as spending is diverted to gambling.
As a community it is important to ensure that the health and well-being of all is supported. Mitigating or protecting from the negative public health impacts of gambling expansion includes, for example, being prepared for an increased demand for social services for mental health, addictions, and crisis support. Debt management supports should also be considered for individuals and families burdened by problem gambling. These are in addition to casino-specific measures shown to be helpful such as restricting gambling hours, decreasing the ease of access to additional funds within the casino, placing maximums on both bet size and daily losses, limiting where alcohol can be purchased, and strong casino self-exclusion programs.
Regardless of the direction taken by Greater Sudbury City Council, Public Health Sudbury & Districts will continue to work with partners and local stakeholders to support health for all and reduce the negative health impacts in our community.
Dr. Penny Sutcliffe
Medical Officer of Health
Public Health Sudbury & Districts