New Gambling Rules Disappoint Toronto Seniors

Senior citizens in Toronto are being prohibited from playing any social games that require more than 25 cents to participate. The previous cost to bingo competitors and card game players was $1.25, but the city believed that was too much. And the Toronto seniors are more than a little angry.

A Complaint was Filed

The Stephen Leacock Seniors Community Centre had a complaint filed against it stating that the $1.25 entry fee they charged was too high. Bill and June Haskins, both in their senior years, have been running the games at the center for seven years. Friday afternoons were game days for everything from bingo to poker and bridge and cribbage to euchre. And the rooms were packed with Toronto seniors who wanted the social atmosphere along with a bit of a competitive environment.

Someone filed a complaint, alleging that the size of the fees – at $1.25 — was causing a financial challenge for some of the older adults. The centre is cooperating with the review in order to remain compliant with the province’s gaming regulations.

The games are now under a review by the city for potential violations of gambling laws and social gambling regulations. And during the review, the entry fee has been lowered to just 25 cents. The new price subsequently went into effect on July 2.

Technically, the games are not allowed to be played for any money at all, but the quarter fee is being allowed until the review is complete. They expect a ruling by the end of 2019.

Toronto Seniors Participation Now Almost Non-Existent

According to CBC, which spoke with the Haskins, most of the seniors that used to look forward to the weekly games are not participating anymore. They noted that things have changed drastically since the change.

“People are walking out,” said June Haskins. “Thirty people have walked out of the bingo. Everybody walked out of the poker room.”

Her husband explained why the money at stake made a difference. “That spoils the whole game because there’s some skill in it, and we need our competitive juices going.”

Bill Haskins referred to the strategy being a part of games like poker. Admittedly, free and games for coins can be fun. However, many of the seniors relished the chance to use their minds and analytical skills to play for a little financial reward. The dollars added up and made a difference in the way the players competed.

As June noted: “It changes the whole game of euchre because you’ll take chances, whereas for a quarter, who cares?”

Another player at the Stephen Leacock Seniors Community Centre, Edna Fitzgerald, expressed her disappointment in the recent decision as well:

“I think they’re trying to dictate to us what old people can do with our money,” she said. “Why can’t they just leave us alone, for goodness sakes? We’re not doing anyone any harm.”

Benefits of Senior Social Gaming

Various organisations have long touted research that shows card games and bingo are key ways for older people to stay social and benefit in other ways.

The US-based AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) cites data from the Mayo Clinic that shows playing card games improves short-term memory and social activity. Those who play games tend to sleep better and exercise more.

Some preliminary medical evidence even shows that playing games prevents mental degeneration and the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s. At the very least, it can delay the onset of symptoms and allow older people to function at a higher cognitive level.

A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that card and board games can help older people retain mental sharpness.

Games like bridge and other card games offer intellectual and social stimulation. Playing for money has little relevance to most of the studies conducted by medical professionals, though. Still, it does seem to provide incentive for people like the seniors at the Toronto community centre to play more competitively and be more motivated to participate in the activities.

It is not likely that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will consider this research when working with the city to conduct the social gaming review. Meanwhile, the results of the review is expected to be made known by the end of the year.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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