A professor out of the University of Manitoba is calling the Winnipeg casino decision to open their doors for 24 hours a day over the weekends is a bad gamble. This follows the decision for two casinos out of Winnipeg to run a trial program to try out 24 hour access each weekend to see if the revenue gains will be enough to make this into a long term program once the 3 month test ends. However, it’s not the revenue gains that researchers are concerned about.
Tracie Afifi is a gambling addiction researcher that is concerned that the increase in availability will also result in an increase in problem gambling. Research shows that there is a correlation between gambling availability and the number of people that become addicted. For this reason, she believes that this pilot program could be damaging to the province, particularly if that goes beyond just the trial period.
She did acknowledge that many Canadians have access to online casinos on a 24 hour rotation already, so this does run counter to the increased accessibility argument. However, Afifi disputed this by stating that local casinos opening up for 24 hour periods of time will increase access to those that don’t use electronic payment methods that will pay in cash instead.
The type of people that generally use casinos for healthy purposes are the ones that use it as an extra form of entertainment or for a trip out with friends. However, these same people aren’t the ones that are hitting up the casino at 4 in the morning, but instead these late hours are calling towards the people that have a problem and don’t regulate themselves as well. It is more likely for a problem gambler to visit a casino during these hours than during the day.
In order to keep the program in operation the casinos will have to see a decent amount of revenue that makes the extra hours worth it. Afifi’s argument pertains to the gambling addictive issues that come with it, but that is much harder to measure than earnings. For problem gamblers these new hours might effect their relationships, jobs, both physical and mental health, and perhaps even increase the rate of crime in the region.
Now, despite this argument it should be noted that this is the type of arrangement that a large portion of casinos around Canada have. Most are open all weekend, and it’s the Winnipeg casinos that are actually the outliers. While any expansion in the gambling industry always runs an increased risk of adding in new problem gamblers and making the problem worse, it does also increase revenue earned by casinos that can go into programs to prevent these types of issues and rehabilitate those that fall into it.
When the program begins this next month the doors will be open from 10 in the morning on Friday until 3 in the morning on Monday, although this special program will exclude Christmas weekend when the casino will remain closed to celebrate the holiday.