Niagara casinos admitted problem gamblers, lawyer says

Class-action suit seeks $3.5 billion from OLG for admitting people from self-excluded list

Posted By Corey Larocque, June 13, 2008

Niagara’s casinos are among the establishments problem gamblers have been admitted even though some are in a voluntary program to keep them out, says a lawyer for a $3.5-billion class-action lawsuit against Ontario Lottery and Gaming.

“I can assure you we’ve had no less than 300 or 400 hundred who have registered with us. There are certainly lots of them who were at Casino Niagara,” said Jerome Morse, the Toronto lawyer who represents a Toronto-area couple who are the representative plaintiffs in the case.

Morse is the lawyer for Peter Dennis and Zubin Noble, a Markham couple, whose case against the province’s gambling authority was filed in a Toronto court this week.

Dennis, whose problem gambling occurred at Woodbine racetrack slots, would represent Class-A plaintiffs, gamblers who tried to self-exclude themselves, but were admitted anyhow. Noble would represent Class-B plaintiffs, their family members.

There are about 10,000 people who voluntarily asked staff to deny them entry, if they show up at any of Ontario’s casinos.

Morse said he hopes the case goes to court within three years.

“There’s always urgency when people suffer this kind of devastating harm,” Morse said.

A spokesman for Niagara’s casinos would not comment on the lawsuit.

Niagara’s casinos adhere to the policy created by OLG, he said.

An OLG spokesman in Toronto also declined to talk about the lawsuit, said spokesman John Letherby.

“As it stands right now, it’s OLG reviewing the statement of claim carefully,” Letherby said. He also wouldn’t address Morse’s assertion self-excluded gamblers have been admitted to Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort.

OLG’s self-exclusion program began in 1999 to deny entry to gamblers who identify their own problem. It relies on the training of security personnel to recognize people who have registered.

“You have security guards, security personnel at all the sites trained at identifying those who may be actively on the self-exclusion list,” Letherby said.

“Every effort is made to be able to spot who those people are, to be able to intercept them…” Letherby said. When self-excluded gamblers are discovered, they’re reminded of the form, directed to counselling programs and escorted out, he said.

But in 1999, there weren’t many people on the list. There were also fewer gambling opportunities because not all the current OLG properties had been developed.

OLG plans to acquire facial recognition technology to make self-exclusion “a little bit more technologically-savvy,” Letherby said.

The company expects to pick a supplier by the end of the summer, he added.