Poker instructor Mel Moscoe was recently told by administration that his poker training sessions would not be welcome at Western.
“They flat out said no. They didn’t give a reason. Poker is not immoral, it’s not illegal, but they said no because they can. They just don’t like it.” Moscoe said.
Moscoe said he ran his training seminar at universities across Canada and the United States, including sessions at the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa.
“[Western’s] decision was inappropriate and childish. It’s legal to go to the race track, it’s legal to go to the casino... it contradicts the concept that university is the bastion of learning,” Moscoe said.
Moscoe’s sessions do not actually involve gambling, but are instead instructional sessions aiming to improve the student’s poker game.
Chris Crighton, USC VP-student affairs, had not heard of the Moscoe case, though he stated “we found that with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the rules on poker are very strict,” adding “poker in general is not possible to do [at university].
“We know the numbers for gambling are high, and we know that there are those for gambling, but we don’t want to promote it,” Crighton said.
Crighton noted there was a charity poker tournament organized last year by a Western club to benefit Tsunami victims.
USC President Ryan Dunn said the Board of Directors would “address every gambling issue on a case by case basis.”
“Gambling is an adult activity and should not be marketed to anyone underage,” said Don Pister, spokesperson for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Comission. “Any gaming on campus that is not sanctioned by the Canadian government is illegal,” though Pister noted the rules were not clear with regards to tutorials.
Professor of sociology and addiction specialist Paul Whitehead said there is evidence of problematic gambling among those aged 18-24, though he noted all ages are affected.
Whitehead also commented that university campuses should not host gambling-themed events, and agreed gambling on campus should be limited, “just as I think the sale of alcohol or tobacco should be [limited] on campus.”
Though Whitehead noted charity events are usually low-stake and typically do not lead to gambling addictions, he maintained that exposure to gambling should be minimized wherever possible.
“The more opportunities there are to gamble, the more normalized it is, the more people will do it, and the more casualties there will be,” Whitehead said.
“As you make [gambling] easier and easier to access, you will have people playing slot-machines and poker instead of going to class.”