Menu Close

Reducing Harm from Recreational Casino Bus Trips for Older Adults

Many older adult recreational centres run casino bus trips for their members. Most participants on these trips lose money. However, they still have a fun experience socializing with their peers, in a safe environment where casino staff treat all patrons with dignity and respect. While no one likes to lose money, the gambling losses for the majority of older adults who visit casinos are within their means. Indeed, studies find problem gambling amongst older adults is lower than rates for the general population.

Some older adults who participate in recreational bus trips do experience harm. Older adults who personally face gambling problems experience this harm, as do their families and peers. Financial issues are the most obvious example of this harm. These range from a reduced ability to spend money on necessities to the more serious extreme of bankruptcy. The consequences of this harm extend beyond monetary issues. It also includes health issues, such as reduced sleep due to worry, depression, and in serious cases death by suicide. Relationship harms can also occur, such as relationship neglect, increased arguments, and divorce. So while problem gambling amongst older adults is not widespread, the consequences for those impacted by it are significant.

There are a number of steps older adult centres can take to mitigate the harm from problem gambling. At the extreme, it is possible to cancel all recreational casino bus trips. However, this deprives those who enjoy these trips of the socialization benefits. It is also possible to reduce the number of trips, and this may be a viable option if a centre is running a weekly trip but for most centres that are running monthly trips this approach may just cause people to gamble more when a trip does occur. Some recreational centres include chaperones on casino trips, but this approach has flaws as well. A chaperone is unlikely to know if someone is gambling within their means or losing more than they can afford. If a chaperone does suspect someone has a gambling problem it is also unlikely they will have the appropriate training to intervene.

Some less intrusive interventions may be more effective approaches. The general idea of these other approaches is to provide information to older adults to assist them in making choices. A simple solution is to provide older adults with maps of the casino floor itself on the front and of nearby amenities on the back. The maps of the casino can assist older adults in finding their way around once inside. The layout of casinos is disorienting by design, in hopes that people do not leave. Providing a map can help visitors find the exits, so when they are ready to leave they can.

Many casinos will subsidize bus trips, but in return require a minimum length of visit. Placing directions to nearby amenities on the back of the casino map provides ideas for alternative activities once someone is finished gambling. This decreases the likelihood that someone will gamble more than they can afford simply because it is not the time to leave yet. If many visitors find the length of the trips is too long it may also be worth shortening the trip and charging a fee for the bus instead of accepting the casino subsidy.

When people register for the bus trip the centres may want to remind everyone to bring a watch.  Casinos do not contain clocks in hopes that people will lose track of time and gamble longer. Wearing a wristwatch or having a watch in a pocket can help protect against this disorientation. It also has the added benefit of making it more likely everyone will be back on the bus in time for departure.

Finally, it may be worthwhile to provide an orientation session for older adults either before they board the bus or on the bus trip itself. Very few people are likely to attend a training session on problem gambling. An orientation session that provides information about the casino, the surrounding attractions, how to play different casino games, strategies to protect oneself from theft, and methods to recognize problem gambling is likely to be attractive to most who are joining the bus trip.

In the orientation session, when turning to the issue of problem gambling, it may be more helpful to explain this as an opportunity to share some ideas on how people can avoid losing too much money. Research on older adults has found strategies fall into two categories: cognitive strategies and behavioural strategies. Cognitive strategies include recognizing that the odds are against casino visitors and not thinking of oneself as lucky. Behavioural strategies include ideas like bringing a pre-set amount to gamble, quitting when ahead, and placing small bets so the money will last longer. Rather than directly sharing these ideas, it may be helpful to encourage orientation session participants to share their own ideas on how they prevent themselves from losing too much money. The orientation leader can then add some more ideas to round out what is missing. Older adults are more likely to adopt the strategies if they have come from their peers.

Recreational casino bus trips can be an enjoyable social outing for older adults. Adopting some simple preventative approaches can help ensure the benefits of these trips outweigh any harms.

Divisions in Hamilton

It has been almost eighteen years since the City of Hamilton was amalgamated with the former municipalities of Ancaster, Stony Creek, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Dundas, yet, the community remains divided on a number of very important issues. The most recent Mayoral race provided a stark example: the campaign focused (almost exclusively) on the Council-approved plan to build a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in the downtown core.

This election is only the tip of the iceberg in showing the divide in Hamilton. A detailed survey conducted by on behalf of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association shows the extent of the community divide.

The Beasley Neighbourhood Association survey was conducted using interactive voice response technology on September 10th and 11th, 2018 from 6:45 pm to approximately 8:45 pm each evening. Results were weighted to roughly match the age and gender of the population of the City of Hamilton according to the 2016 Census. A total of 561 people completed the first question of the survey and 379 completed the entire survey. A total of 401,333 phone numbers were called as part of this campaign. A total of 109,867 of these numbers were active lines (i.e. the call was an active number that either generated no answer, an answering machine or the call was answered). A contact rate of 19.3% was achieved (i.e. 21,188 of the active lines answered the phone). The response rate was 0.35% (the rate improves to 0.51% when examining only the first question). (Raw survey data can be found here).

The results of the survey were skewed towards voters, with 80.0% of respondent indicating they had voted in the last municipal election compared to actual turnout of 33.5%. This skew towards voters is not entirely surprising, as individuals who are likely to vote are also the same individuals who are more likely to take part in a survey asking about civic issues.

Overall the rating of the performance of Hamilton City Council as a whole over the past four years is not positive. 34% of people rated the performance as poor or very poor and another 45% rated it as average, while on 20% rated the city council’s performance as good or very good. This rating was significantly divided between those over and under 65. A total of 29% of Hamilton residents over 65% rated council’s performance as good or very good while only 15% of those under 65 gave a good or very good rating.  Local councillors themselves did considerably better, with 40% giving their local councillor a very good or good rating, 36% an average rating and 24% a poor or very poor rating.

We also asked residents to indicate which of six issues were important to them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 and 2 being Very important and somewhat important. These issues were ranked as follows by Hamilton residents:

    1. Public Safety & Crime (85% rating as important with a 1 or 2)
    2. The condition of local roads and highways (83%)
    3. Tax Increase (70%)
    4. Keeping the price of housing affordable (68%)
    5. Improving parks, green spaces & recreational programs (67%)
    6. Funding public transit (56%)

These topline results, however, do not reveal the significant divide between respondents in the lower city and Hamilton Mountain and those in rural and suburban Hamilton. When comparing these issues between the downtown and mountain areas and the rural and suburban areas three issues had a statistically significant difference in levels of support.

Percent Indicating Issue is a Priority
Issues Downtown/Mountain Rural/suburban
Taxes Low 66 77
Keeping housing affordable 73 57
Public Transit Funding 60 48

No statistical difference was found between the condition of local roads, improving parks, or public safety and crime.

Percent Indicating Issue is a Priority
Issues Downtown/Mountain Rural/suburban
Condition of Local Roads 83 84
Improving Parks 69 64
Public Safety and Crime 86 83

Despite the lower ranking amongst issues, specific questions about housing affordability revealed significant support for taking action to improve affordability. A total of 70% of Hamilton residents indicated they support taking action to keep Hamilton affordable for renters and homeowners. In addition, 64% of residents support requiring developers to include affordable housing units in new buildings

The Accuracy of the Dyad Ratio Algorithm and the 2015 Federal Election

The Dyad Ratio Algorithm, as explained in the previous post, can be used to estimate public opinion towards issues or support for political parties. This approach does not weight the polling firms on their accuracy or their potential bias instead all surveys are assumed to be equally valid, with the only variance in importance of a poll for the model based on the survey sample size. This is contrast to Éric Grenier’s approach at CBC and Nate Silver’s approach at

Grenier at CBC weights the results by sample size, time of the poll, and firm accuracy. Polling firm accuracy is determined by the firm’s last survey before an election compared to the election result for each election polled over the past ten years. A survey’s impact diminishes by 35% for each day of an election. Silver at also uses accuracy of the polling firm and a measure for house effects which is built into the model itself. Silve’s approach also uses sample size to weight the impact. at this time does not have a record of the accuracy of polling firms, as such the approach used here accounts for each poll equally in the results. When examining the 2015 federal election the  model’s approach performed quite well at predicting party support.

Comparing the projections from the Dyad Ratio Algorithm using Wcalc to the election results each outcome is within 1.1 percentages points of the final results. (Note the election results were re-calculated to remove those who voted for an ‘other’ party). The Conservatives are projected exactly, Bloc within 0.2 percentage points, the NDP are within 0.5 percentage points, the Liberals within 0.8 percentage points and the Greens within 1.1 percentage points.

The results of the Dyad Ratio Algorithm also outperformed the projection from Éric Grenier narrowly. Grenier has the Conservatives within 1 percentage point, Bloc within 0.2 percentage points, the NDP are within 2 percentage points, the Liberals within 2.3 percentage points and the Greens within 1 percentage point. Though it is worth noting that Grenier’s projections were able to include ‘other’, which he projected to yield 0.9% support compared to the 0.8% they actually received. Also, in fairness, the Dyad Ratio Algorithm projections are being made after the fact and Grenier’s were made in real time before the election results were known. To put it another way, if these results had shown to do significantly worse this model would have been re-examined.

The next step is to begin testing the model to predict support during elections. Future posts will use data from Wikipedia to show how the Dyad Ratio Algorithm is projecting support for the federal parties on an on-going basis.