By Nathan Carroll, Rakeback.com Staff Writer
Statistics Canada is a publically subsidized research firm based in Ottawa, Ontario that specializes in accruing and parsing data related to matters of public interest. A fact sheet they recently released shows that Canadians spent $13.75 billion on gambling in 2009. In 2008, the total was $13.67 billion, and in 2007, $13.7 billion. It seems clear that the number has reached a temporary plateau, which could be considered pretty good news. In a period of global recession, the fact that gambling expenditures have managed to stay level is remarkable. And if you go further back into the past, the statistics show a substantial upswing; in 2002, Canadian gambling revenues were only $2.73 billion, meaning there's been a rise of 400% in less than a decade.
A closer look at the numbers calls into question some conventional wisdom. Though gambling is often painted by its opponents as a social ill that preys on the lower socio-economic class, the Canadian statistics show that households with an income of less than $20,000/year are significantly less likely to have gambled at any time during 2009 than households with an income of more than $80,000. Not only that, but in addition to being less likely to gamble, the low-income households that DID gamble during the past year spent less on average while doing so.
Unfortunately, data on U.S. gambling is not so readily available. We know that total revenues in the American gambling market are significantly higher, coming in at nearly $100 billion in 2007. What we don't know are the specific breakdowns by household income that we see in the report from Statistics Canada. That said, there's no particular reason to assume that the data pattern exhibited across class lines in Canada would be substantially different in the U.S. We can use the conclusions arrived at by examining the Canadian numbers to influence policy here in the U.S.
Social conservatives often argue that loose gambling restrictions cause an increase in poverty and decrease the quality of life for those in the lower class. This line of reasoning is the core of their case for hampering the freedoms of honest Americans by calling for legislation to ban or restrict regulated gambling operations. These numbers help to dispel that myth, and by doing so may help to bring about an America where responsible adults are able to pay for entertainment in whatever way they see fit.
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