Loto-Québec Questions Claims by Regional Public Health Officials

MONTREAL, Feb. 18 /CNW Telbec/ - As public health officials from Quebec's 18 regions prepare to meet the media today regarding the authorization recently granted to Loto-Québec to develop online gaming standards, the public corporation would like to make a few points and raise some questions.

In a notice(1) published last week by the Institut national de santé publique, which serves as the basis for various statements by the regional public health directorates (RPHD), the conclusions drawn by the INSP from a study(2) conducted by Dr. Mark Griffiths - professor at Nottingham Trent University - are not even supported by the author of the research. Indeed, Dr. Griffiths acknowledges that the 2,500 participants in the study are not a reflection of Svenska Spel's entire clientele and, therefore, that the results of his study may not be used to draw conclusions regarding either the percentage of players who play only on Svenska Spel's site or the percentage of new players. It is therefore incorrect to assume - as does the INSP notice - that 52% of Svenska Spel players who play only on that Swedish site are new players.

In addition, Dr. Griffiths believes that a linear relationship cannot necessarily be established between accessibility, increased numbers of players and the increase in problem gamblers. The framework for social responsibility measures implemented when gaming is introduced must be taken into account. In this regard, the example of South Africa may be cited, where gaming was expanded without an increase in problem gambling because responsible gaming measures were put in place. Sweden is another good example, where the prevalence rate remained stable, before and after the introduction of online poker, at about 0.6%.

Speaking of Sweden, Loto-Québec points to a Swedish commission created in 2008 that conducted a study(3) of 2,000 poker players (regardless of the Internet site on which they played, which were determined in the study). The results of the study showed that the percentage of problem gamblers who played "other sites" is almost four times higher compared to those who played on the Swedish state's site (3% vs. 11%), and almost three times higher than that of players who played both on Svenska Spel's site and on an illegal site (3% vs. 9%). It is surprising that this information was not cited by the RPHD spokespersons at the various media events in which they have recently participated. Public health officials appear to rely on the analysis of only a selection of available literature.

Loto-Québec deplores the tone the RPHD use all too often, whereas their alarmist scenarios end up never materializing, citing the example of the notice issued by the RPHD before gaming halls were implemented in 2007.

Regardless of what the RPHD say, it should be noted that Quebeckers currently have access to over 2,000 illegal and unregulated gaming sites that are of dubious integrity. Loto-Québec wants to channel the gaming offer in a controlled, safe environment with irreproachable integrity.

Loto-Québec will use its internationally recognized expertise in responsible gaming and implement a number of control and prevention measures, particularly with regard to player age verification, establishing weekly deposit limits, as well as offering players the opportunity to exclude themselves.

Incidentally, before putting its site online, Loto-Québec will be submitted to a review of its internationally recognized responsible gaming measures. In addition, on February 3, the government of Quebec announced the establishment of a monitoring committee to follow up on the number of players and their gaming habits.

    (1) Enjeux de santé publique reliés à l'étatisation des jeux d'argent sur
        Internet, notice issued by the Institut national de santé publique.
    (2) Jeux de casino sur internet : analyse d'une évaluation de la
        responsabilité sociale, Mark Griffiths, International Gaming Research
        Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Division of psychology
    (3) Svenska Spel's Internet Poker, an evaluation, Report by the Internet
        Poker Committee, Public Government Report, SOU 2008:36

SOURCE Loto-Québec

For further information: For further information: Marie-Claude Rivet, Corporate Media Relations, (514) 499-5079

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