Positive words from problem gambling specialist at Global iGaming Summit & Expo

High profile responsible gambling expert says the industry is better equipped to fight problem gambling.

One of gambling’s most vocal opponents in Canada, problem gambling specialist Jeff Derevensky of McGill University's International Centre for Youth Gambling and High Risk Behaviours, had some positive things to say at the Global iGaming Summit & Expo in Montreal this week.

Referring to the online industry's arsenal of technology in his presentation, he commented: "You have the opportunity to do [player protection] better than [any] other forms of gambling."

Derevensky was just one of several key speakers at GIGSE, which wrapped up Thursday, reports the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

Predictably, the recent moves by several Canadian provincial governments aimed at offering regulated online gambling services were of particular interest to delegates.

Bob Rybak, an online gambling consultant working with the Atlantic Lottery, told delegates that he expected Loto-Quebec, the British Columbia Lottery Corp. and Atlantic Lottery Corp. to launch a common internet platform in the autumn of 2010. The provinces of Ontario andManitoba were also actively considering the possibilities, and could follow at some future point, perhaps within 18 months he opined.

"The only issue really is a political one," said Rybak, adding that provincial elections may be a factor in determining when announcements are made.

In his presentation, Ryback revealed that Canadians spent an estimated Cdn$800 million in 2009 gambling online with "the vast majority of that money is going offshore.”

Provinces want to divert some of that cash to their own coffers so lottery corporations will offer "a legal and credible" option to gamblers in their jurisdictions, he said.

Among the operational advantages to a Canada-wide online network would be the expanded pool of poker players.

The state-sanctioned online operations will compete with operations that have been building their brand and offerings for years, Rybak noted. They also offer huge pools of players across all time zones.

In a bid to be "competitive and credible," the provincial lottery corporation partnership has hired industry experts to guide and advise, and are focused on convergence, he said, going on to talk about the growing range of technology and gambling channels available to online operators.

Loto-Quebec spokesman Jean-Pierre Roy confirmed that Quebec's first online offering will be poker, followed by sports betting.

Several speakers emphasised that public acceptance of online gambling will be linked to the operators' ability to ensure underage players cannot access the sites. Another public priority revolves around measures to identify and help problem gamblers.

"Safeguarding the players means safeguarding our industry and our livelihood," said Hillevi Stuhrenberg, manager of responsible gaming for Betsson.

Like their offshore competitors, Canada's gaming corporations will use geo-locating software to ensure gamblers are actually within their jurisdictions. Even more sophisticated software will help determine the gambler's identity.

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