New statistics on gambling from Statistics Canada reveal that a decline in gambling in the country – the first in sixteen years – has taken place. Revenues from government-run gambling fell slightly to $13.67 billion in 2008 from $13.70 billion the year before, a decline attributed to adverse economic conditions.
Commenting on the decline, Garry Smith, a gambling research specialist with the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, opined that problem (addicted) gamblers were largely responsible for insulating the industry from the worst of the recession. He estimated that as much as five percent of the adult population has a gambling problem, ranging from mild to severe, but this demographic contributes at least one-third of overall gambling revenues and even more to slot machines and video lottery terminals.
"It's not a recession-proof industry," Smith says. "(But) if you're an addict, you're still going to play and I guess that's one of the reasons it stays up there. Most industries drop significantly; gambling has levelled off and dropped a bit, but not that much."
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Statistics Canada found wealthier households are more likely to gamble than their poorer counterparts, with 34 percent of those with incomes of less than Cdn$20 000 playing games of chance in 2007, compared to 58 percent of those making Cdn$80 000 or more.
The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that the poorest households devote 1.7 percent of income to gambling, compared to just 0.4 percent in the richest households.