Gaming is Canada’s most important entertainment industry, contributing .3 billion to the economy each year and providing 267,000 full-time jobs, according to a study released last week by the Canadian Gaming Association.
Yet some gaming halls are drawing fewer patrons than anticipated, and others are reconfiguring work force and operations to compensate for sliding revenues.
The association’s first comprehensive nationwide report is based on data from 2006. It says gaming directs $8.7 billion-more than half the industry’s revenue-to government services and charities, and an additional $6.6 billion to operations, salaries, and goods and services. The report also says the industry is currently investing almost $10 billion in capital construction, with the bulk of the investment (49 percent) in Ontario.
“It is now demonstrably clear how the majority of spending in the industry goes directly back to Canadians in the form of paychecks, construction in communities and revenues for the programs and services and charities that we value,” said CGA President Bill Rutsey.
According to the CGA study, Ontario employs more people in the industry than any other province (102,000 jobs), followed by Quebec (52,000), Alberta (43,000) and British Columbia (32,000). The figures include jobs in gambling operations as well as supporting professions, including gambling-related government and charity organizations.
“The breadth and depth of the industry is significant,” said study author Robert Scarpelli of HLT Advisory. “We’ve always known that employment in gaming operations was robust, but the total impact of the industry surprised us.”
Despite efforts to frame the report as “just the facts,” it had its critics.
Judith Glynn of the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre said gambling has a “qualitative” impact on communities that is more difficult to measure. “What would happen,” she asked, “if the money that people in the local community spent on gambling was spent elsewhere?”
Professor Robert Williams of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta added, “We know a lot of money changes hands and there’s a fair bit of employment and economic revenue from gambling, but the real question is: ‘Does that offset the social costs?'”
Rutsey said there has been no agreement on how to measure the social costs of gaming, if any.
“We state quite clearly in our report we did not look at social costs as there has been no effective methodology to measure, with the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Center and Alberta Gaming Research having just released for the first time a methodology they intend to begin using,” Rutsey said.