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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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Remembering Tibor Barsony: Founder of The Canadian Foundation On Compulsive Gambling

Aug 18, 2017

Friends, family and colleagues are remembering an influential and courageous trailblazer who has passed away. Tibor Barsony, founder and executive director of the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling (CFCG) from 1983 to 1997, died on Friday August 11th.

In 1980, Tibor embarked on the journey that would establish CFCG (which later became the Responsible Gambling Council), propelled by his inability to find services and support for his own gambling problem. In the determined and audacious manner that was to become his trademark, Tibor sought out the most qualified person to mentor him and give him the tools to secure support and assistance for people with a gambling problem. He found this help in Dr. Robert L. Custer, a psychiatrist who in 1974 opened the first clinic for the treatment of compulsive gambling in the United States. After gathering as much information and knowledge as he could, Tibor established the CFCG in 1983.

The Foundation of 1983 was humble and decidedly grassroots: Tibor had an office in his basement and a few dollars in the bank. His first task was outreach, sending letters to what he determined to be the 100 most influential Ontarians, alerting them to the issue of compulsive gambling. He mailed the letters out and waited, unsure of what would happen next.

His persuasive words and powerful message received overwhelming support. The CFCG was starting to make an impact. At a time when problem gambling was not considered a social and political issue, Tibor tenaciously persuaded government, regulators, operators, the healthcare system, social service providers, treatment providers and researchers, that it was, in fact, a significant problem requiring immediate attention. As a result, for the past 35 years, policies, regulations, responsible gambling standards, research, and treatment emerged to prevent and reduce problem gambling and provide support to individuals who were experiencing challenges.

Tibor's outreach extended well beyond policymakers. He launched the first awareness program for patrons at Windsor Casino in 1994. He also launched Canada’s first conference on problem gambling in 1995. In addition to valiantly advocating for education, policy and systems change, Tibor personally counselled and helped countless individuals with gambling problems. He was also a founding member of Gamblers Anonymous (GA) in Canada, and continued to be a committed member and advocate for GA. In addition, he spread the word about compulsive gambling across Canada and many other parts of the world, speaking innumerable times at conferences, professional gatherings and in meetings with politicians and bureaucrats. 

Tibor was the devoted husband of Mary Barsony and a loving father and father-in-law of Julie, Rob and Arnt. A dedicated Zaidy of Mitchell and Vanessa, Evan and Daniel and a proud Great Grandfather of Lillian. He was adored by his older brother Paul and younger sister Olga and predeceased by his brother Peter.

"But I think most of all, I am proud of knowing I helped people. I turned my own experience into something positive…I was first and foremost a counsellor. I wanted compulsive gamblers to know that somebody understood their struggle. There are people around, today, who I know I helped."
~ Tibor Imre Barsony 

We are deeply honoured that we had the opportunity to interview Tibor this year.  For those of you who have not had the chance to read the interview, it can be found here: http://www.responsiblegambling.org/about-rgc/annual-report/how-it-all-began.