Fact checked by Wilbur Thompson.
Loto-Québec made headlines when it revealed that it was in talks to launch a mini-casino in downtown Montreal, close to the Bell Centre. However, this project has not been well-received by all, with some gambling experts expressing their concerns about the potential for increased problem gambling among bettors due to the increased availability of slot and sports betting machines.
During a radio interview, the Crown agency’s CEO, Jean-François Bergeron, shared the plan to rent the now non-operational 1909 Taverne Moderne and place hundreds of video gambling machines inside to attract sports fans from the nearby Bell Centre. However, not everyone is on board with this idea.
Dr. Jeff Derevensky, head of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours, expressed his concern about the link between gambling accessibility and availability and problem gambling. He fears that the mini-casino will provide an opportunity for people to develop a gambling addiction. A 2017 study revealed that the Bell Centre neighbourhood already has a population that is more vulnerable to problem gambling.
Furthermore, experts have also cited the risk of money laundering schemes by organized crime at provincial casinos and gaming halls. An earlier endeavour by Loto-Québec to establish a casino on the island was rejected by public opposition.
Finance Minister Eric Girard stated that the government would approve the project if two conditions are met by the Crown corporation: prioritizing public health and ensuring an overall decrease in video lottery terminals across the province. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante echoed the importance of prioritizing public health and expressed her concern about the potential harm the mini-casino could cause to those who already suffer from gambling issues.
Sylvia Kairouz, a professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Concordia University, cited research indicating that 70% of revenue from slot machines comes from 3% of those who play, and they are usually problem gamblers. She emphasized that slots are not an ordinary commodity and can be harmful to players.