Canadian Medical Association Journal Challenges Hospital Lotteries

Controversy is erupting across Canada over hospital lotteries, which are used to help finance medical research and teaching opportunities at medical centres across the country.  The Canadian Medical Association Journal believes the lotteries should be discontinued, while managers of public health networks believe in-house lotteries benefit groundbreaking research.

The hospital lotteries are similar to public games managed by the OLG, the BCLC, or any of Canada’s provincial gambling bodies.  However, the revenue made from the hospital lotteries is used to finance new and ongoing developments at the hospitals.  According to reports, major hospitals raise up to $10 million for research, while smaller hospitals can generate up to $1 million apiece.

One of the major hospitals that benefits from the lotteries is the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which is affiliated with the University Health Network that supports the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.  The lottery at Princess Margaret includes raffles for elaborate prizes such as new cars, big houses, expensive trips, or even millions of dollars in cash prizes.

Dr. Robert Bell, CEO of the University Health Network, maintains that lotteries are permissible in hospitals rather than traditional casino and online casino games.

The hospital lotteries do a tremendous amount of good in providing funding for enhancing patient care and certainly funding crucial research — funding that is difficult to raise in other ways.

The CMAJ disagrees with Dr. Bell, and insists hospital lotteries must aspire to high ethical standards to continue operating morally.  The Journal recommends that hospital lotteries must always validate a player’s personal identification before selling a ticket.  Players should also be allowed to set personal spending limits, and that the lotteries should eliminate any discounts for multiple ticket purchases.

The divisiveness of the hospital lotteries is likely to generate significant debate, which could lead to more extensive discussions with Health Canada.

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