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UNLV Reports Weigh Pros and Cons of Casino-Resort Development in Toronto

International Gaming Institute analyzes social and economic issues associated with proposed casino-resort in Greater Toronto Area.
Campus News  |  Dec 17, 2012  |  By Afsha Bawany
Media Contact: Afsha Bawany (702) 895-5515
UNLV International Gaming Institute reports just recently released, look at the impacts of a potential casino-resort in Greater Toronto Area. The reports focus on problem gambling and social costs associated with gaming in the area. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)

UNLV International Gaming Institute researchers released the third and fourth reports in a series examining economic, policy and social impacts of developing an integrated casino-resort in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In the latest reports, UNLV researchers Kahlil S. Philander and Bo Bernhard examine problem gambling and the social costs of gaming.

Problem Gambling

The third report focuses on the influence of gambling opportunities on problem gambling rates, and casino revenue contributed by problem gamblers.

While researchers say policymakers should be prepared to address a small uptick in problem gambling should the proposed casino-resort be built, they caution that the notion that problem gambling prevalence rates simply rise as exposure increases is flawed or at best incomplete. More recent research has supported a theory of adaption, where local populations adjust to gambling opportunities, and better understand risks and preventative measures associated with gambling.

"Modern responsible gambling programs, which are underrepresented in prior studies of availabilities and problems, are also likely to further abate future harm caused by casino expansion - and the GTA possesses some of the world's most modern and advanced programs in this area," said Bernhard and Philander in the report.

The potential share of casino revenue from problem gamblers is another issue to consider, the authors write. In their review of existing literature, Philander and Bernhard find that the application of previous studies would likely overestimate the share of total gaming revenue from Ontario problem gamblers.

The authors suggest that when previous studies are properly applied to the current GTA market, earlier estimates that 36 percent of gaming revenue comes from problem gamblers would be revised down to approximately 5.7 percent. This revision takes into account more recent area estimates of problem gambling prevalence, and also incorporates revenues that are generated from customers visiting from outside the province.

Social Costs

The fourth report examines the social costs of gaming. UNLV researchers find that there is limited research on the social impacts and significant disagreement among academics on what constitutes a social cost, which in turn makes these costs difficult to measure.

"Our current belief is that social cost estimates should not be considered a reliable decision-making tool for the adoption or rejection of casinos until an inter-disciplinary consensus in reached among researchers," the authors write.

Authors note a reason for cautious optimism in at least one sense. The area's tourist-orientated nature and top notch research, treatment, and education resources should give policymakers confidence that the GTA's process can and will constitute a best practice approach to addressing the social costs of casino-resort development.

The reports are supported by a grant from the Canadian Gaming Association and are part of a series that examines the potential development of a casino resort in the Greater Toronto Area. Full reports are available at