B.C. Should Use Gambling Profits for Poverty Reduction


B.C. disproportionately taxes the poor though gambling to pay for government programs


July 15, 2020 

A new report finds that “those at the margins of society are paying disproportionately into the coffers” of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). In Royally Flushed: Reforming gambling to work for, not against, British Columbia, think tank Cardus shows how the lowest-income households in B.C. pay the provincial government an estimated 4% of their annual incomes through gambling – twice the proportion that the wealthiest British Columbians hand over to the government though games of chance. B.C.’s income tax system, by contrast, taxes the wealthiest families at nearly six times the rate of the province’s poorest. 

The report also finds:

  • BCLC generates just over half its revenue from slot machines, which are designed to override players’ conscious, rational control.
  • British Columbians likely spend almost seven times more on gambling than they report.
  • BCLC revenue is treated exactly the same way as general tax revenue; it is not designated specifically for community improvements as advertised.

“With casinos closed because of COVID-19, the provincial government has a golden opportunity to re-imagine gambling,” says Johanna Wolfert, a Cardus researcher and report co-author. “British Columbia should reform gambling, using BCLC profits to boost the income equality or savings of the province’s low-income households instead of taxing them disproportionately to support the rest of the province.”

Royally Flushed outlines possible ways to turn BCLC profit toward reducing poverty instead of mixing it in with the province’s general tax revenue:

  • Create a gaming equality benefit, which would re-direct BCLC’s $1.4 billion annual contribution away from general government revenues toward low-income families through monthly support payments similar to the province’s social assistance system.
  • Use BCLC profits to incentivize savings – one of the best ways to ensure families don’t turn to usurious payday loans. This can boost the savings accounts of low-income families, following a model similar to government top-ups of RESP contributions or through prize-linked savings accounts.

“No government should be using a system that targets the poor more than the rich to finance its policy agenda,” says Brian Dijkema, Cardus Vice-President of External Affairs and report co-author.

Royally Flushed: Reforming gambling to work for, not against, British Columbia is available online.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.

Topics: Gambling