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U of A gambling expert questions Wildrose lottery plan
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Friday, January 4, 2013 5:41PM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 4, 2013 6:38PM MST
One day after the provincial official opposition put forward an idea to utilize a digital lottery game to raise money for the proposed downtown arena, a gambling expert is offering his take on the economics, and ethics, of such a plan.
On Thursday, Leader of the Wildrose Party and the official opposition, Danielle Smith, pitched an idea to Albertans to rebrand and remarket the existing KENO lottery games to raise money for projects such as the downtown arena.
“We believe that a branded KENO game promoted by the Oilers and the Flames, administered on a large scale by the AGLC, could be the solution that makes sense for everybody,” she said in a press conference Thursday.
Garry Smith is a gambling research specialist at the University of Alberta, and he disagrees with Smith’s plan.
“The first question is, how much more gambling do we need in the province?” Garry Smith said.
“We’re already at the top in Canada, so do we need more?”
Smith said the plan would be a bad idea, economically and ethically.
“If you put this in, it’s questionable it would raise the amount of revenue they’re talking about, and if it did, it would likely cannibalize some existing gambling formats,” Smith said.
The Wildrose party said KENO is currently in 88 Alberta establishments, and generated about $3.1 million in revenue last year.
The party compared that revenue to the same game in British Columbia, where it generated $235 million from about 4,000 locations, including sports bars and pubs.
For the plan to work, the party said the game would need to be in 1,000 sports bars and pubs, as well as 2,200 lottery outlets.
Numbers released by the province said if the game was expanded, it could generate about $196 million – $49 million in proceeds divided with $20 million going to Edmonton, and Calgary, and the remaining $9 million going to charities.
Smith also questioned the ethics of that route.
“Is this the right thing to do?” Smith said. “You’re putting out more of an activity that’s known to harm some people in the province.”
On Thursday, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said control measures could be utilized to reduce the possibility of harm – pointing to some provinces where KENO is played, and betting amounts are limited.
“We do recognize that every time you have a gaming option, there are a small percentage of people who do have problems dealing with that,” Danielle Smith said Thursday.
With files from Susan Amerongen
New downtown arena designs released on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. The Katz Group has requested council vote to resume arena negotiations and extend the deadline to April 30.
U of A researcher Garry Smith studies gambling, and believes a Wildrose Party pitch to fund part of the downtown arena through KENO revenue is a bad idea.