Government gambling revenue up in B.C., bucking national trend - Tuesday 28th of July 2009

B.C. is bucking the trend when it comes to revenue generated by government-run gambling.

A Statistics Canada report released Wednesday concluded that revenue from government-run gambling fell last year across Canada for the first time in 16 years, with more people trying their luck at casinos and slot machines while turning away from lotteries and video lottery terminals.

Revenue from government-run lotteries, video lottery terminals (VLTs), casinos and slot machines outside casinos grew steadily from $2.73 billion in 1992 before levelling off at just over $13 billion in 2005. It dropped for the first time last year, falling slightly to $13.67 billion from $13.70 billion in 2007.

However, in B.C., revenues from government-run gambling rose last year to $1.962 billion, up from $1.919 billion in 2007. That’s also a huge increase from the $403 million generated in 1992 in B.C.

“The West is doing well economically, so more people are still gambling,” StatsCan senior analyst Henry Pold said in an interview. “Eastern Canada’s economy is not doing so well and it may be affecting their behaviour. B.C. also has a lot of well-off retired folks and they like to gamble.”

Howard Blank, vice-president of Great Canadian Gaming Corp., said in an interview that B.C. gambling operations have fared better than most provinces’, although he has noticed his guests are spending less. “Our province is in a healthier position to ride these crazy times. We’re close to maintaining the same number of visitors.”

Blank said a challenge during the recession is to focus on new groups of people who don’t normally go to casinos.

He cited the thousands of people who showed up on the weekend at Great Canadian’s Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam to see Duane Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter.

“Many of them had never been on our property before,” he said.

StatsCan also reported that revenue from horse racing across Canada declined to $378 million from $532 million between 1992 and 2008.

Casinos and slot machines outside casinos (mainly at racetracks) across Canada are also growing in popularity and now account for 34 and 22 per cent of the gambling industry, respectively, while lotteries and VLTs dropped to 24 and 20 per cent of the business.

In the provinces, gambling revenue per person ranged from a low of $114 in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to a high of $825 in Saskatchewan. Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia also had above-average gambling revenues per capita in 2008 ($556), while Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Quebec had relatively low numbers.

Households with higher incomes are more likely to gamble and spend more when they do, Statistics Canada found. Thirty-four per cent of households with incomes less than $20,000 gambled in 2007 and spent an average of $678, while 58 per cent of those with incomes of $80,000 or more gambled, spending $798.

However, poorer households spend a larger slice of their money on gambling than their richer counterparts. Those with incomes of less than $20,000 a year spent 1.7 per cent of it gambling, while those with incomes of $80,000 or more spent just 0.4 per cent trying their luck.

Just under half of women and men living alone (45 per cent) reported spending money on at least one gambling activity in 2007, but men outspent women by 50 per cent — $814 compared to $516.

The household spending figures pertain to 2007 because comparable figures have yet to be tabulated for 2008.

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