Casino News

New Ad for Hard Rock Casino Ottawa Raises Problem Gambling Concerns

A family counselling group has warned that the new advertisements for the upcoming Hard Rock Casino Ottawa target the vulnerable Chinese community in the area, which is at a particularly high risk of developing gambling addictions. Although the casino project received official approval earlier this month, it has already started marketing campaigns that are aimed at Chinese individuals, experts claim.

According to a recent report by Ottawa Public Health, most city residents have engaged in some form of gambling. It estimates that around 1 percent of adults, or 13,000 people aged 18 and up, have developed gambling addictions or have some problem with gambling. Meanwhile, less than 500 people have asked for help, although there are several prevention and treatment programs available to residents across Ontario. Some groups and communities in Ottawa, however, are particularly vulnerable to developing gambling habits. These include Chinese individuals, health experts point out.

At the same time, the ads for the newly announced Hard Rock Casino Ottawa, are apparently targeting Chinese casino players, according to the Chinese Family Services of Ontario (CFSO). This is a non-profit organization which promotes health initiatives and provides counselling services to people from the Chinese community. With such marketing and advertising campaign, the new casino may exacerbate the problem with gambling addictions in this community, CFSO executive director Anna Wong told Canadian media.

She believes that gambling is “ingrained” in the Chinese social culture and as a result, many more people of Chinese descent are regular casino patrons. Data from the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario shows that these individuals experience greater harm from problem gambling. The prevalence of problem gambling in the Chinese community appears to be twice as high as the rates seen in the general population, a 2002 study shows.

How Do Casino Ads Target Chinese Players?

Hard Rock Casino Ottawa is an ambitious gambling expansion project which would transform the existing Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino into a full-fledged casino resort. The casino will invest more than $318 million over the course of six years and is expected to create approximately 4,000 direct and indirect jobs in the area. The plan includes three main phases, the last of which envisions the addition of a large hotel and a parking garage. Once fully operational, the resort is also expected to bring in $12.8 million in annual revenue for the City of Ottawa and around $43 million over the first 10 years.

The first phase of the casino expansion has already started and it includes renovation of the existing casino and increasing the current gaming offerings with 35 gaming tables. While there are no details revealed at the official Hard Rock Casino Ottawa website, the Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino’s online platform advertises the new options available to casino patrons. One of the most exciting things is the Asian inspired gaming area which offers games such as Pai Gow, mini baccarat, poker, and blackjack. Even more striking is the fact, however, that there are writings in Chinese, while some of the ads online and on several billboards in the city are entirely written in Chinese.

In a response to the same Canadian news outlet, Andrew Wright, director of the joint venture between Rideau Carleton Raceway and Hard Rock, denied the idea that they are targeting a specific group. The casino meets all requirements of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation regarding the prevention of problem gambling and limiting the access of individuals who are known to have gambling addictions, Wright added.