Education has the power to change lives. For Paul Girard, this has been the driving force behind a 20-year career helping Nova Scotia deliver on its commitment to responsible gambling. In 2019, Paul retired from his role as one of 14 co-ordinators with the Responsible Gambling Resource Centre at Casino Nova Scotia, a program he helped develop.
A quiet and gentle man, Paul reflects on his 20-plus years working in the field of gambling and addictions. He managed a 28-day detox program, co-founded the province’s Problem Gambling Help Line (now called the Gambling Support Network), and studied gambling under two Harvard University experts. In 2005, Paul was asked to help develop a Responsible Gambling Resource Centre, a commitment in the Responsible Gaming Strategy.
“It was (one of) the first in Canada,” says Paul. “I remember a guest saying he had been in almost every major casino in North America and Casino Nova Scotia’s Responsible Gambling Resource Centre was the first demonstration that someone might care.”
Staff at the Responsible Gambling Resource Centre share information with players on responsible gambling practices. They help debunk myths, provide support during the voluntary self-exclusion process, and refer people to community resources when appropriate.
The Centre is one of 11 responsible gambling programs offered by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the Crown corporation responsible for managing the provincial gaming industry.
Once the Responsible Gambling Resource Centre was established, Paul was hired to manage its Sydney and Halifax locations for three years. He then hit the road to provide hundreds of people with responsible gambling training in establishments across Atlantic Canada. Paul returned to the centre in 2013 to work part-time.
He recalls what drew him back. “It was the people who work there and our shared mission to educate others,” says Paul. “Most of our visitors want to know the role of the centre. Just having that conversation with them opens the door and gives us the opportunity to tell them the truth about how gambling works. Once they understand that strategy or luck will not change the outcome, they can simply relax and enjoy themselves. Information is everything and that is what the centre offers.”
It was the success stories that Paul found most rewarding. “I remember one woman who came into the centre. She was distraught. She couldn’t pay her rent. I listened and we talked about whether self-exclusion, a process that helps people take a voluntary break from gambling, might work for her. I told her about the support services available to her and we found one that was located in her home community. When she left the centre, she seemed calm and ready to take the next step.”
Paul’s desire to equip people with information and tools to make good decisions has guided him as a father to three grown children.
“I’ve found it easy to discuss addictions with my kids. I shared the facts and clarified the myths. You can have fun gambling. It’s all about being aware and informed.”
There are more than 500 people directly employed in Nova Scotia’s gaming industry. Like Paul, they help deliver gaming experiences that are fun, responsible and entertaining. Learn more by visiting gamingns.ca.