A video lottery terminal In Montreal, a video lottery terminal (VLT) is often less than three minutes away by foot from a compulsive gambler, who is usually a male between 18 and 44 with little education and low revenues.
For instance, 96 percent of the Park Extension neighborhood has a business with a VLT permit less than three minutes away from the residential area, according to Université de Montréal geographer Éric Robitaille.
On the other hand, only 13 percent of Westmount is less than 3 minutes away from a VLT machine. Many neighborhoods find themselves between these two extremes. On the Plateau Mont-Royal district and in lower downtown VLTs are very accessible, explains Robitaille
Robitaille is affiliated with the Université de Montréal Léa-Roback Centre, which studies social inequalities regarding health. In 2006, Robitaille and Patrick Herjean used cartographic data from the city of Montreal to calculate the distance in feet to VLTs. Those measures clearly demonstrated a concentration of businesses with VLT permits in underprivileged neighborhoods. Robitaille concludes that if a gambler lives close to several sites, he or she will always have quick access to a VLT even if a certain number of the terminals are removed.
The results of this research were published in the International Journal of Health Geographics and were presented at the Canadian Public Health Geomatics Conference that following September. Thanks to funding from the Léa-Roback Centre, the two geographers were able to develop their analysis throughout 2007.
But rather than look solely at the revenue of the household, as other researchers have done, they developed a vulnerability indicator based on the profile of the gambler. The sex, age, civil status and level of education were used. "Whether we use only household revenue or all four criteria, the targeted neighborhoods remain the same," says Robitaille.
The study of VLT access began in 2006 after Loto-Québec outlined its development plan, which called for a 31 percent reduction of VLT machines or a total of 2521 sites down from 3663. According to Robitaille, the plan will have little impact because too many locations remain easily accessible.
The geographers hoped to obtain from Loto-Québec the exact number of VLTs, but they refused to divulge the information by citing a moratorium. And so the researchers had to rely on the data of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux du gouvernement du Québec. "The fact that a business has a VLT permit doesn't necessarily mean that they have VLTs. As long as we don't have the real data, it will be difficult to evaluate the true impact of the reduction plan," says Robitaille.
Loto-Québec says their VLT revenue decreased from $1,299 billion in 2006 to $1,098 billion in 2007 – as a result of the reduction of VLTs and the new tobacco laws. Robitaille questions the figures, since the corporation didn't include the impact of online gambling.
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