Ontario casinos lose millions through credit program

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Four Ontario casinos have come under fire after it was revealed that they spent over $10m in interest-free loans to gamblers. The controversial program was believed to have even given house credit to gamblers, who have since walked out on their debts.

All in all, the Casino Rama, Caesars Windsor, Fallsview Casino and Casino Niagara have given out millions of dollars worth of chips to 605 gamblers, and their accounts are now in default. That works out at an astonishing average of $17,000 per person!

Debts to Ontario casinos will not be paid

Documents by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation (OLG) show that after ‘exhausting all lawful collection options, including the services of collection agencies’ to pursue the debts, the agency now considers the $10.4m unattainable.

The program has been around since 2010 and has approved up to $37m in credit since it’s operation. It is said to offer house credit under strict controls and responsibly, and data has shown that not every gambler who has applied for the credit receives it. The stringent process has seen 59 of the 171 gamblers who applied denied, and the casinos would never promote or advertise that they run the program.

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Credit options draws criticism

Unsurprisingly, the credit option has not gone down with many who feel that it is another way to exploit players and certainly won’t help any problem gamblers. Robert Williams, a gambling expert and professor at the University of Lethbridge and the Alberta Gambling Research Institute was one to voice those concerns; “Who are these gamblers likely to be? It’s reasonable to assume they’re the ones who don’t have easy access anymore to funds through the bank and have exhausted the amount of money they have brought (to the casino)”. He also added; “They are likely to excessive gamblers who have exceeded their limits”.

He used the evidence of the unpaid debts to demonstrate that these were the type of people involved with the program and cited that house credit has not been used in other casino operations across the globe.

Yet, John MacFarlane, the vice-president of gaming at OLG defended the program; “They’re just using our chips, They have no value outside the casino property. You could not pay for a meal with casino chips. You could not pay for a hotel room with chips. You can only game at the gaming tables”. Furthermore, MacFarlane said the unpaid debts would be written off as an expense and the $10.4m was just a smidgen of the $1.4bn that the casinos bring in through their gaming revenue.

Ultimately, we will have to wait and see whether the debts will result in a new outcome that may benefit casinos and players alike in the long run. Whether you are playing on your phone through Lucky Nugget Casino or visiting the local tables, it’s important to always stick to your budget, so the fun always remains!