Charlottetown, PE - Recently the King government released its Responsible Gambling Strategy. Contrary to its name, this strategy is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt by government to plow ahead with their irresponsible agenda of introducing online gambling to PEI when the truth is, gambling is becoming a real problem here.
In 2021, when the conversation about online gambling started, the Department of Health presented its plans to the Standing Committee on Health and Social Development. During committee, government claimed there was no recent data on problem gambling trends. The committee was told the most recent data they could find dated back to 2006.
“During committee government conveniently omitted crucial insights into the evolving landscape of gambling problems on PEI,” said Karla Bernard, Leader of the Third Party. “This was a blatant attempt to hide facts and silence anyone concerned about online gambling, including MLAs and Islanders.”
Last week the King government quietly released a 2019 prevalence report on gambling that reveals a grim reality it desperately tried to conceal. The numbers paint a concerning picture – the rate of problem gambling on PEI has surged threefold from 2.8% to 8.7%. This is not merely an increase; it's a problem that demands immediate action.
Even more concerning is the disturbing rate of at-risk gamblers among young Islanders aged 18-34, with a shocking rate of over 15%. Not surprisingly, these at-risk gamblers are significantly more inclined to use online gambling platforms, engaging almost four times more than non-problem gamblers.
“The PC government’s reckless pursuit of online gambling revenue is nothing short of greed. They seem to have conveniently forgotten the expert advice on minimizing gambling risks – the more accessible gambling becomes, the more problems it creates,” said Bernard. “Instead of heeding the wisdom of experts and the data itself, they are forging ahead, putting profit margins above the welfare of Islanders.”
It is high time that the King government puts Islanders before profits. The Green Caucus calls on government to immediately halt this ill-conceived e-gaming venture, which threatens the mental health and financial security of countless residents, particularly youth.
We urge government to prioritize the well-being of Islanders, engage in transparent and honest dialogue, and reconsider its reckless gambling expansion plans.