Posted February 6, 2009

New book examines impact of legalized gambling in Canada

TORONTO - In the face of the current economic crisis, it’s increasingly important to consider the social costs of legalized gambling, according to a York University professor whose new book delves into the issue.

“During the recession of the early 1990s, profits from casino gambling were crucial for government budgets in many provinces,” says professor Thomas Klassen, who co-edited and contributed chapters to Casino State: Legalized Gambling in Canada, released today by the University of Toronto Press.

“The question is, ‘Can gambling come to the rescue again this time, and at what cost?’ In times of economic uncertainty, it’s even more important to examine the real price of these policies,” he says.

Klassen, an Associate Professor in York’s Department of Political Science and the Atkinson Faculty’s School of Public Policy and Administration, says the book is a response to an “unprecedented explosion” of legalized gambling, particularly in the form of casinos and electronic gaming. It includes a chapter dealing specifically with the latter.

"The cold, hard truth is that Canadians are increasingly addicted to gambling – an addiction we believe is encouraged by the government,” Klassen says.

The volume raises questions about state conduct, precarious policy issues, public health and addictions, and provides a comprehensive overview of the central issues related to the legalization and expansion of gambling in Canada.

Klassen hopes it will spark debate amongst a wider audience. “We know that the public is becoming increasingly conscious of gambling addictions, so the awareness is definitely there,” he says.

Casino State is co-edited by James F. Cosgrave, a sociologist at Trent University, who holds a PhD from York University.

Contributors include: Kerry Badgley, Carleton University; Colin S. Campbell, Douglas College; Jeffrey L. Derevensky, McGill University; Timothy F. Hartnagel, University of Alberta; Ray MacNeil, a former executive director of the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation, Jan McMillen, leading international gambling scholar; William Ramp, University of Lethbridge; Garry J. Smith, University of Alberta, and Harold Wynne, a consultant focussing on gambling-related issues.

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