Manitoba

24-hour casinos in Winnipeg a bad gamble, says researcher

The Manitoba government is making a "very harmful" decision to open its casinos in Winnipeg around-the-clock on weekends, says a University of Manitoba associate professor.

Beginning Dec. 2, the provincially run Casinos of Winnipeg will be open 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays

Beginning Dec. 2, the provincially run Casinos of Winnipeg — Club Regent and McPhillips Station — will be open 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays as part of a pilot project. (CBC)

The Manitoba government is making a "very harmful" decision to open its casinos in Winnipeg around-the-clock on weekends, says a University of Manitoba associate professor.

"I have great concern," said Tracie Afifi, who has thoroughly researched gambling addiction. "We know that making gambling more available and more accessible corresponds with an increased likelihood of gambling problems.

"I would anticipate that this would be a very harmful addition to the province."

Beginning Dec. 2, the provincially run Casinos of Winnipeg — Club Regent and McPhillips Station — will be open 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays as part of a pilot project.

Doors will open at 10 a.m. Friday and remain open until 3 a.m. Monday. When the Monday is a statutory holiday, the casinos will stay open until 3 a.m. Tuesday instead.

With this decision, we can be certain we're going to be increasing gambling problems. It's probably something we should not be doing.- Tracie Afifi

The exception will be the Christmas weekend. The casinos will be closed from 6 p.m. Christmas Eve until 10 a.m. Boxing Day.

The pilot project will run for four months and then be evaluated by the government.

Although online gaming is already available at any time, Afifi says extending opening hours in casinos just adds opportunity for people who don't have access to a computer or credit card.

While gambling for many is a form of entertainment with friends, it is "very destructive" for a portion of the population, she said. 

And those who would see it as a safe and harmless social activity aren't likely the ones going in during "the wee hours," she added.

"It may be that people with [gambling] problems are more likely to attend at those times," Afifi said.

So the clear answer as to why the province would try this pilot project is to see how much extra revenue it might pull in, she said, adding the harm it causes, however, is not as easily measured.

It's not just about the money. For those with gambling problems, it can impact relationships, jobs, mental and physical health, and even the greater community if someone's problem spirals into crime.

"It becomes problematic in a wide range of areas. It's not restricted to just that individual," Afifi said.

"With this decision, we can be certain we're going to be increasing gambling problems. It's probably something we should not be doing."

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