At-risk gamblers focus of campaign

City's first gambling awareness week covers gamut - the fun and the risk

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
January 8, 2013 01:00 AM

Alex Andreucci, regional team leader for Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, demonstrates the "magical hat," a marble draw used to educate gamblers about numerical odds in playing slot machines.

Chances Gaming Centre provided a fitting backdrop on Tuesday for talk about percentages.

More than 70 per cent of British Columbians gamble regularly.

For every 100 gamblers who cross the threshold into that emporium of fun, ninety-five per cent are there strictly for the entertainment.

It's the remaining 4.6 per cent who are at-risk gamblers who are liable to check their lives at the door in compulsive, pathological pursuit of the payout.

They're not the sole focus of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, a joint initiative supported by the City, the province and B.C. Lottery Corporation, but engaging them in dialogue is a central goal.

The idea behind the program, expanded to five B.C. communities this year after it was road-tested last year in Vernon, is to walk softly and provide gamblers with the knowledge they need to make informed choices.

"We wanted to take away the penalty box feel," said BCLC president Michael Graydon, who co-hosted a kickoff breakfast.

That engagement process can take the form of learning the fun way of gambling or having a serious one-on-one conversation with at-risk gamblers, he said.

"The truth is, some people are misinformed about the odds of winning or how a slot machine works," Graydon said.

The City's social planning council is helping to co-ordinate the week's events. Local volunteers trained by BCLC and the B.C. gaming policy and enforcement branch will staff myth-busting kiosks at various venues throughout the week.

"This seemed like such a great fit," said Mayor Peter Milobar, noting BCLC's corporate presence in the city. "It's a form of entertainment but we all know those people who can't control themselves.

"How do we let that 95 per cent enjoy it and still provide for the five per cent?"

An open house and expo take place on Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Desert Gardens. Beginning at 11:30 a.m., speakers will address topics such as counselling, prevention and GameSense, BCLC's gambling education program.

Graydon said he hopes the initiative will also provide greater insights into how gaming impacts communities.

David Horricks, director of the province's responsible gambling program, said there is no waiting list for counselling services, which were provided to about 2,000 B.C. residents last year.

The week is an exercise in closer, community-based involvement, but the corporation has focused on responsible gambling for years, Graydon noted. GameSense has gained international attention and has the highest certification from the World Lottery Association, he added.

Gaming centres such as Chances have GameSense kiosks for their customers; at casinos such as Lake City Casino, GameSense representatives watch for people who exhibit signs of problem gambling. They don't play all their cards at once, though.

"Problem gamblers aren't always aware that they have a problem, so you have to approach them in a sensitive way," said Alex Andreucci, regional team leader for Responsible Gambling Awareness Week.

"If I see a customer getting angry, that's when we start a conversation."


Open house and expo: Friday, Jan. 11, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Desert Gardens, 540 Seymour St.

Myth-busting kiosks: Today, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Centre for Seniors Information, Northills shopping centre; 6-9 p.m. at the Blazers game; Thursday, Jan. 10, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at Aberdeen Mall.

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