Compulsive Gambling at the Casino de Montréal

I was a crisis intervenor, a social worker, at the beginning of the 1990s.

By Raymond Viger 

It was just before the Casino de Montréal opened. Once it opened, my colleague and I were swamped.

There were lots of interventions to be made with compulsive gamblers who, having lost everything, saw suicide as the only solution to their distress. These were people who, before they entered the Casino, had been serious, hard-working businessmen, middle aged folks who had never had a compulsive gambling problem, who found themselves alone in front of these machines…

Given all this human misery we really couldn’t go any further to stop the hemorrhaging until we talked to the authorities concerned. In 1994, my colleague and I met with Casino management to offer them our services. We would directly intervene in the Casino itself. As well, we wanted the Casino’s employees to undergo sensitivity training so they could see the warning signs of people in distress, and could refer people who needed help, not leaving them alone in the Casino.  

The response we got troubled me enormously. They said the Casino didn’t really need our help because there were no gamblers harboring suicidal thoughts! Did that mean that all the people we were helping with crisis therapy didn’t exist? We were blown away by this reply. It was the same response we’d received from some high school principals vis-à-vis school drug problems. “We don’t have it in our school,” they’d tell us.

And yet, we’d intervened with several youths from the same school, but the administration preferred to sweep the problem under the rug rather than try to resolve it.

Congratulations to Mr. Bill Clennette, who forced Loto-Québec’s hand and unveiled the reality of Quebec’s casinos. We can only note the resistance shown by Loto-Québec’s management, wanting to hide the problem, interpret the facts as they wish they were, without giving us access to information.

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