Loto-Québec opens Gatineau casino around the clock

Loto-Québec has quietly decided to keep the Casino du Lac-Leamy open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to „meet the needs of its clientele“ and compete with other gambling outlets.

Jean-Pierre Roy, a spokesman for the provincial agency that operates casinos in Gatineau, Montreal and Charlevoix, near Quebec City, said yesterday that, after 12 years and 40 million visitors, it was time to open Casino du Lac Leamy around the clock.

The Montreal casino has been operating around the clock since 1997, four years after it opened.

The Casino du Lac-Leamy used to close between 4 and 9 a.m., but it has been open 24 hours on Friday, Saturday and Sundays for the past year.

„It seemed like the next logical step,“ Mr. Roy said. „Rideau Carleton slots is open around the clock on weekends, and some Ontario casinos are open 24 hours a day.

„There are many people who work at night and go to the casino in the morning. There is not a noticeable difference between people who go to the casino at 5 a.m. and those who visit it at 9 a.m.“

Gatineau anti-poverty activist Bill Clennett says the decision to keep the casino open longer exploits compulsive gamblers. Mr. Clennett said Loto-Québec wasn’t providing recreation when it allowed casino gambling 24 hours a day.

„People who need to gamble between 4 and 9 a.m. are people who have a gambling problem,“ he said. „The only reason to keep the casino open is to provide more gambling opportunities for compulsive gamblers.“

Mr. Clennett said the longer casino hours wouldn’t necessarily create more problem gamblers, but people who gamble compulsively will have the opportunity to lose more money.

Loto-Québec released reports in February about people who became distressed after losses at the Casino du Lac-Leamy and other provincial casinos when the Quebec court of appeal ordered it to do so. Two suicides and at least a dozen attempted suicides are thought to be related to gambling in Quebec casinos.

The Canadian Gaming Association yesterday released a study saying that more than 135,000 Canadians are directly employed in gaming, the country’s largest entertainment industry.