Nova Scotia No Longer Funding Gambling Awareness

What happened to Nova Scotia gambling awareness funds?

What Happened to Nova Scotia Gambling Awareness Organization?

All across Canada, gambling is big business, especially for the provincial governments that profit from it. Gambling proceeds make up a remarkable portion of the revenue that funds education, health and community projects all across the country. It makes sense that, while gambling addiction is a concern, governments would want to keep that money rolling in. But some people were outraged to learn, months after the fact, that Nova Scotia has quietly done away with direct funding for its long-time gambling awareness program.

No More Funding for Nova Scotia Gambling Awareness

The program in question, Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia (GANS), is no in operation. The NS government didn’t mention it was doing away with the organization. In fact, no one seems to know exactly when GANS was stricken from the legislative record. What we do know is that it’s gone, and it has been for a few months, at least.

Bruce Dienes is the chair of a non-profit group, Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, that strives to minimize the social harms of gambling within the community. Dienes said he learned of GANS dissolution in the fall of 2020, and that regulations for the program were officially altered in October.

When Dienes contacted the Department of Health and Wellness to inquire about it, he was told that “new information” had surfaced, indicating that the relationship between gambling and mental anguish, depression and anxiety, is far broader; the idea being that the funds once allocated for the prevention and treatment of gambling would better served funding the broader mental health spectrum.

Consolidating Nova Scotia’s Mental Health Budget

The government’s media relations advisor, Marla MacInnis, confirmed that GANS funding will be pooled into the province’s overall mental health and addictions budget, which comes to around $300 million per year.

“Problem gambling often occurs with other mental health and addictions issues, and due to the stigma, people often initially seek help for other issues,” MacInnis defends the government’s decision. “It’s best if people can access support that addresses these issues together.”

Dienes disagrees. “The idea that this is new information is ridiculous,” he said. “We’ve known this for decades.” He believes the choice to do consolidate funding was a much more calculated one, primarily aimed at resolving the “profound lack of funding for mental health in Nova Scotia.”

Research Favors Problem Gambling Services

Igor Yakovenko is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Dalhousie University. He says that, according to research, one of the common barriers between problem gamblers and treatment programs is a lack of information; especially information regarding where to turn for help in the first place. In his expert opinion, Yakovenko believes harm reduction and problem prevention programs are the most effective resources for curbing and curing addiction.

“We need services and public health resources that minimize problems from developing in the first place or, if you’re already gambling, they prevent you from escalating that gambling,” Yakovenko told CBC News.

This comes on the heals of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s (ALC) intent to expand its New Brunswick online casino to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The ALC’s online casino presents gamblers with the ability to wager amounts up to 40x higher (up to $100 per play) on online games compared to legal restrictions that limit a single bet on VLTs to no more than $2.50. All things considered, some would say there’s no better time for programs like Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia to remain funded and heavily promoted.

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