The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Government May soon get More Cash from Gambling than
Taxing accumulated wealth is being replaced by taxing risk and
adventure, according to recently released government fiscal documents,
and this has many economists and public interest activists warning
about the danger of this trend.
The latest provincial budget is forecasting total government revenues
from corporations at $873 million for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, revenues from gaming, lotteries and other forms of gambling
have been forecast at $850 million. For 2005-06, gambling revenues for
the government are expected to climb to $951million, while revenues
from corporations will fall to $776 million.
“It’s not surprising given that there has been steady reduction in
corporate income tax in recent years,” Says David Fairey, director of
the Trade Union Research Bureau. “If we supposedly have a competitive
economy, then corporate income taxes ensure costs are shared by the
owners of capital, not just consumers.”
He adds that it is an economic fact that markets are created by wage
earning working people as consumers, not corporations. If working
people have to pay all of the taxes, they end up subsidizing
corporations while reducing their spending power to stimulate the
“The rightwing says there should be no corporate income tax at all;
that it inhibits investment and the cost of the tax is passed on to
consumer,” he said. “But since it is consumers, who are mostly wage
workers, who stimulate the economy, and corporations mostly accumulate
wealth, it makes more sense to tax that wealth than to further burden
Although Fairey isn’t opposed to taxing gambling activities, he is
cautious about relying on it too heavily for public revenue. “Gaming
revenue constitutes a voluntary tax on the working class. They are in a
way like another consumer tax that tend to affect people who can least
The lower mainland is becoming more of a hotbed for gambling activity,
as at six municipalities are either considering or have already
committed to expanded gaming in their jurisdictions. Vancouver,
Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, New Westminster and Langley have authorized
the setting up of up to three thousand slot machine and six new casinos
in the next two years.
This development has raise ire and controversy in all of these cities.
Peter Rolston, of the Lower Mainland-based Multi-Cultural Coalition
Against Gambling Expansion, says governments and politicians are being
suckered by powerful corporate interests into believing that expanded
gambling will generate better long-term revenues for local communities.
He claims numerous studies in jurisdictions where gambling is a
large-scale venture show this isn’t the case.
“A recent study by McGill University claims that up to 15 per cent of
gamblers risk serious addiction; the study also linked one suicide
every two weeks in B.C. to compulsive gambling,” he said in a
commentary on the Canadian Christianity web site. “We elect our
councils to show leadership, not to pander to an addicted culture. B.C.
already has 30,000 pathological and 90,000 problem gamblers; some
individuals cost society well over $70,000 a year in bankruptcies, loan
defaults, missed child support and increased health costs.”
The group has been working with some local church, labour and community
organizations to lobby against any further expansion of gambling.
“Despite the hype from governments and from the gaming industry, there
is little long-term net increase in revenues from increased gambling,”
he said. “Gaming is not a wealth generator, when we factor in the
increased social costs organized crime, drugs, family violence and
breakdown, health costs and policing.”
Fairey says taxing wealth and ecologically destructive practices, such
as industrial waste and junk mail are far better ways of increasing
public revenues. He adds that taxing gambling should be similar to
taxing alcohol and tobacco purchases, in that the high tax rates—which
refers to as “sin taxes”—are intended to discourage people from using
these products, not to count on them for funding.
“If we tax pollution, it could encourage industry to reduce waste and
look to alternative energy,” he said. “We get junk mail that we never
asked for. Yet we have to pay for the disposal of the garbage through
our taxes, while the companies that mail it out get to write off the
expenses against their taxes. It’s perverse. We should be taxing it
However, both Rolston and Fairey agree that cash-strapped
municipalities, hit by provincial and federal government cuts, are
likely to continue to look to gaming as a way of rising money for local
services and social programs.