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Critical Update Regarding Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO)

Trudy Quosai, CEO of Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, issued the following statement earlier today:

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has decided to eliminate provincial funding for Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO). At a time when the provincial government is expanding access to gambling, resources to prevent gambling problems and related harms should be increased and not slashed. GREO has been advised to wind down operations immediately.

In 2018, the Ontario government took in a record $2.5 billion in revenue from gambling. GREO's total budget is less than .001 percent of that amount. With this small investment from the Ontario government, GREO has:

  • Contributed to the recognition of the Ontario government as a world leader when it comes to a commitment to offering gambling in a safe and sustainable manner

  • Funded and supported over 30 front-line community organizations throughout the province to develop local solutions that benefit youth, new Canadians, Indigenous groups, older adults, and all Ontarians

  • Coordinated intersectoral strategic planning to develop common agendas among provincial agencies to avoid duplicating services, thereby saving money on front-line costs

  • Developed the largest digital collection of accessible information about what other jurisdictions are doing about gambling harm and what has been proven successful, as well as datasets that can be used and reused by government and academic researchers to save time and money

  • Provided on-call assistance for all of the organizations involved in gambling in Ontario (including OLG, AGCO, RGC, YGAP, COSTI and treatment providers), including access to 24/7 digital resources, custom information responses as quickly as within the day, and full peer-reviewed studies when appropriate

  • Measured and tracked the impact of dollars spent to reduce gambling harms

Investment in this work reaches far beyond the person who gambles: for every person with a gambling problem, six people are affected. Gambling harm affects finances, relationships with family and friends, employment and study opportunities, and the mental and physical health of the person who gambles as well as their family, including children.

Research shows that people with disordered gambling are twice as likely to consult their GP, five times as likely to be hospital inpatients, and eight times as likely to have psychological counselling, which has a direct impact on the efficiency and cost of front-line healthcare.

Some recent changes, such as access to free alcohol in casinos, have the potential to put even more pressure on social services and our stretched healthcare system. We share a commitment with provincial gambling organizations, local communities, and researchers to prevent and mitigate harm from gambling, and its associated costs.

We know this information is as devastating to you as it is to us.

We will have more information in the days ahead as to how we can all ensure that this important work continues in Ontario.

This news will come as a surprise to many in the problem gambling prevention field. Over the past several years GREO has become a valuable contributor as it sought to bridge the gap between academic research and practical application of new knowledge that could make a difference in managing risks associated with gambling. For example, GREO representatives met regularly with members of the Canadian Responsible Gambling Association (CRGA) — on a fee-for-service basis — to present highly valued customized and timely research briefs on topics related to responsible gambling.

We wish the entire GREO team well as they consider their future plans.

NOTE: SustainableGAMING provides project services to CRGA and has provided strategic planning services to GREO.

Paul Smith