Problem Gambling: What’s the big problem with gambling?

Get Informed

What’s the big problem with gambling?

For most people, gambling is an exciting and relaxing way to win a little money or to socialize with friends. For others, gambling becomes a force that tears their family, financial, work and social lives apart.

When is gambling a problem?

If the thrill of the big win becomes more important than spending time with loved ones, if gambling affects work performance, or if debts grow and grow and it seems like they’ll never disappear, gambling may be a problem.

This site is designed to provide you with information about what problem gambling is and to recognize the signs and symptoms that there may be a problem.

What can I do?

Get informed and learn

First of all, learn about gambling and the differences between gambling and problem gambling.

Ask Yourself

Take one of the tests that are included and see if you or someone you care about might have a problem

Get Help

Beating a gambling problem can be a real challenge but the odds are in your favour! Learn how to gamble safely and how to help someone you care about to set limits with their gambling.

What is Problem Gambling

Problem gambling is any type of gambling that compromises, disrupts, or damages your personal, family, working and social relationships, as well as your financial situation. It also has a great effect on the individual’s physical, emotional and mental health.

The Canadian Problem Gambling Index, in its final report, defines problem gambling as:

Problem gambling is gambling behaviour that creates negative consequences for the gambler, others in his or her social network, or for the community.

Problem gambling has a serious impact on not only the gambler, but also on family members, friends and co-workers.

Gamblers Anonymous define problem gambling as:

Any betting or wagering, for self or other whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depend upon chance or skill constitutes gambling.

Gambling Problem Gambling
  • Risking something of value
  • One realizes that something is at risk
  • Understanding that when the bet is done, is irreversible
  • Outcome is determine by chance
  • A pattern of gambling behaviour which compromises, disrupts and damages family, personal and/or professional life
  • Spends money in a way that is harmful to the person
  • May also harm people around them including family, spouse, friends

Problem Gambling Facts

Problem Gambling Facts:

  • 95% of the population have been involved in gambling are healthy when it comes to gambling however,
  • 5% of the population are problem gamblers, and
  • 1% of the 5% are compulsive/pathological gamblers.

Many people gamble without any problem. The vast majority of people gamble without doing any harm to themselves or others. According to the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) 1995 study, 84% of Ontario adults gamble at least once within a year, and 1/3 of the population (33%) has participated in at least 3 different forms of gambling in 1994 (Ferrir 1996).

Nevertheless, there is a sector of the population that will develop a “gambling problem” and problem gambling has a great deal in common with other addictions. Among gamblers, up to 50% have substance abuse problems. Nine to eighteen per cent of substance abusers will develop gambling problems. Substance abuse is higher among younger gamblers.

Gambling Phases

Progression of gambling phases

  • Early Stage Dependence (Winning Phase)
    In this stage, the financial rewards or the internal escape received as a result of gambling behaviour provide sufficient motivation for the behaviour to continue
  • Middle Stage (Losing Phase)
    Losses begin to stack up, gamblers start “chasing” their losses, which cause the gambling behaviour to become more out of control.
  • Late Stage (Desperation Phase)
    In this final stage, the gambler becomes overwhelmed. There are extreme emotional, financial and family/relationship problems. Criminal behaviour may occur, with possible legal consequences.

Types of Gamblers

  1. Professional: skilled, able to control
  2. Anti-Social or Criminal: use gambling to cheat, involved In illegal activities
  3. Casual Social: recreation and excitement, for win, loss is the cost of entertainment
  4. Serious Social: gambling main form of recreation but it is second to family and vacation
  5. Relief/Escape: to find relief from anxiety, depression, anger
  6. Compulsive: consists of four features: it is at the end of the continuum):
    • Progression: can’t stop, bets go up; will continue gambling as long as they have funds. Time spent gambling increases.
    • Intolerance of losing, when losses occur, the compulsive gambler “chases” the lost money. Losses are concealed from family members and lying becomes a major element in the gambling cycle.
    • Preocupation: Thoughts about gambling become a constant obsession.
    • Disregard for consequences: During this final stage, forgery, thefts and embezzlement are common. Despite these illegal acts, the gambler intends to score a big win and set everything right.

Some people gamble because they think they can “beat the system” or because they feel lucky.

The laws of probability will ensure that if you do “get ahead”, you’ll eventually erase those gains if you keep playing.

Gambling Facts and Myths:

There are many myths about winning when you gamble. According to the Responsible Gambling Council , these are some of the more frequent ones:

Myth: I can see a pattern in the way the machine is paying out

Fact: Games are based on random event

Myth: If I keep playing, I will eventually win, get my money back

Fact: The longer one plays, the more one will lose

Myth: One has a better chance of winning at a slot machine by the entrance

Fact: Casinos have no control over the outcomes of the player’s game

Myth: I have discovered a winning system

Fact: People who have an inflated belief in their skills are a greater risk of developing a gambling problem. They undervalue the impact of the things they can not control.

Myths and Misconceptions

  • Gamblers have flamboyant, carefree personalities. (Some are, but others are quiet, introverted, and serious minded)
  • Gamblers enjoy risks in all areas of their lives. (Some are big risk takers, others are conservative in personal habits and work)
  • If you don’t gamble daily, you’re not a problem or compulsive gambler
  • You can be addicted to an activity. (ambling can change one’s mood by affecting the biochemistry of the brain much the same way as alcohol or drugs)
  • Gamblers are thieves and criminals. (Not true, but some gamblers may resort to criminal behaviour in desperation)
  • A compulsive gambler will bet on anything. (Problem gamblers generally have preferences and are not tempted by every type of gambling)
  • All compulsive gamblers want to lose. (are addicted to the act of gambling –they would rather lose than be out of the action)
  • Compulsive gamblers are week-willed, otherwise they would simply stop.