5.2 Gambling

Yellow rubber ducks in a small blue kiddy pool.
Rubber ducks in a kiddy pool. Credit: Rubber Ducky Carnival Game by Linnaea Mallette CC0 Public Domain.

Have you ever participated in a game of chance?  Think back to your childhood, did you ever go to a carnival and pay to win a prize?  Did you pay for the lucky dip in the fishpond?  What about using the term “I bet you”…have you ever said these words?  Did you really place a bet or wager or was that a figure of speech?

This section of our text is going to explore problem gambling and games of chance as part of the diagnosable illness in the DSM-V.

 

Activities

  1. Define game of chance and gambling in your own words.
  2. Where would you go to participate in this activity (list as many ways possible).

As we discovered in section 5.1, gambling is the one process addiction to make it to the DSM-V.  What is gambling?  Gambling is placing a bet (monetary, time, services or other) with the possibility of a desired result (monetary, services, time or other).[1]  According to Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington Public Health[2], 76% to 79% of adult Canadians participate in some form of gambling in a year.  What does this suggest?  It is important to consider we cannot look at gambling in binary terms, just as we cannot examine substance use in this way.  Let us start with challenging negative feeling about gambling:  what if gambling is connected to a good cause?

Activities

  1. Is gambling positive or negative, or either, or neither, or something else entirely?
  2. Research local hospital organizations, non-profit organizations, community groups and other groups in your community.
  3. Have they ever used gambling as a way of fundraising?  How?
  4. What was the result?
  5. Have you participated in one of these events?
  6. What was the result?

Based on your research, you may have found many organizations use games of chance to support their fundraising budget, for example, QE 11 Home Lottery.  What does this suggest about how Canadians feel about gambling?

Food For Thought

  • When does gambling become harmful?
  • What are the ways in which gambling can impact an individual?  A family?  A community?

Let us look at the ways gambling is problematic for some people.[3]

 

In this example, gambling had a significant impact on Joe, not just financially but mentally.

Activities

  1. After watching the Fifth Estate, take a moment and think about Joe.  What kind of life did Joe have?  What impact has gambling had on Joe’s life?
  2. What is “the machine zone” with Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM’s)?
  3. What does winning do to your brain?
  4. How are EGMs designed?
  5. Do you believe banned gambling is a form of treatment? Why?/Why not?
  6. Are there responsible gambling programs?
  7. What is the responsibility of the government for supporting people with a gambling addiction?
  8. What is the responsibility of casinos for supporting people with a gambling addiction?

According to Grant and Chamberlain,[4]

many people with gambling disorder report an urge or craving state prior to gambling, as do individuals with substance addictions; gambling often decreases anxiety and results in a positive mood state or “high,” like substance intoxication; and emotional dysregulation often contributes to gambling cravings just as with alcohol or drug cravings. [5]

This indicates there are similarities between gambling and substance use.  When we examine risk factors, identified by Allami et al.,[6] they include access to gambling opportunities, speed of reinforcement, socio-demographic, and psycho-social factors.

Did you know young men (male identifying) are those who are the most vulnerable for developing a gambling disorder?[7]  Studies also suggest individuals living with mental health disorders are at a higher risk for developing a gambling disorder, in comparison to those with substance use disorders, though approximately 50% of participants with gambling disorder report substance abuse, and up to 63% of individuals seeking treatment for gambling disorder screen positive for lifetime substance use disorder.[8] Substance use and gambling together (for example, drinking and playing an EGM) are factors that an individual can control.[9]  This is important to remember when developing harm reduction and health promotion programs and interventions for groups with gambling disorders.

Activities

  1. What are other risk factors for a gambling disorder?
  2. What are the factors that individuals can control when it comes to gambling?  What are the factors that cannot be controlled?
  3. Review five sources of gambling advertisements.  Who do you think they target?
  4. Design a prevention activity that targets young male identifying individuals and communities.  What factors do you need to include?
  5. Develop a responsible gambling promotional material.  What do you need to include?

What is problem gambling?

When you have difficulty putting limits on time or money spent betting on activities or events based largely on chance[10] you may have a gambling disorder.   When working with individuals with mental health issues, Social Service workers must be aware of the risk factors and provide a holistic model of care. Knowing that gambling is one factor in a client’s life will be helpful as you work with them (remember intersectionality).  This means working with the client and understanding their determinants of health.  You must also help your client determine whether they are ready to address their gambling problem.  If a client is interested in working with you to improve their gambling fortunately there are treatment options in Canada.

Activities

  1. Brainstorm as many options for where a person could obtain treatment for gambling in your community.
  2. Is there a waitlist?
  3. How long is treatment?
  4. What are the supports available?

Regardless of your personal feelings about gambling, just as you would work with an individual with a substance use disorder in a nonjudgmental and caring way, you will work with individuals with problem gambling with the same kindness and respect.  Knowing that gambling is a disorder with treatment options will improve your practice and improve the care your clients receive.

Image Credits

Rubber Ducky Carnival Game by Linnaea Mallette via Public Domain Pictures is licensed under CC0 Public Domain


  1. Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling (2015). Overviewhttp://www.cprg.ca/About 
  2. Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health (2021). Prevalence of gambling disordershttps://www.kflaph.ca/en/research-and-reports/gambling-and-gaming-disorders.aspx
  3. The Fifth Estate. (2017, Dec. 8). Gambling on addiction: How governments rely on problem gamblers. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3aDOTSqh94
  4. Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2016). Expanding the definition of addiction: DSM-V vs. ICD-11. CNS Spectrums21(4), 300–303. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1092852916000183
  5. Ibid.
  6. Allami, Y., Hodgins, D., Young, M., Brunelle, N., Currie, S., Dufour, M., & Nadeau, L. (2021). A meta-analysis of problem gambling risk factors in the general adult population. Addiction, 116(11), 2968-2977. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15449
  7. Williams, R. J., Volberg, R. A., & Stevens, R. M. (2012). The population prevalence of problem gambling: Methodological influences, standardized rates, jurisdictional differences and worldwide trends.  Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre.  https://opus.uleth.ca/bitstream/handle/10133/3068/2012-PREVALENCE-OPGRC%20(2).pdf
  8. Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2016). Expanding the definition of addiction: DSM-V vs. ICD-11. CNS Spectrums21(4), 300–303. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1092852916000183
  9. Allami, Y., Hodgins, D., Young, M., Brunelle, N., Currie, S., Dufour, M., & Nadeau, L. (2021). A meta-analysis of problem gambling risk factors in the general adult population. Addiction, 116(11), 2968-2977. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15449
  10. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2018). Problem gambling and technology use treatment groups. https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/pg-group_treatment-pdf.pdf

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