Problem Gambling Factors

Find out why some groups are more likely than others to develop a gambling

Studies show that some factors like age, cultural background and socioeconomic status may contribute to an increased likelihood of developing a problem.

  • Problem gambling and teens/young adults

    • Teenagers are less likely to see gambling as an activity that can lead to a problem. Many are exposed to casino-style games on social networking sites, by participating in dares and challenges and betting on sports for fun.
    • Young adults aged 18–24 are more likely to engage in risky gambling behaviour. That is because their brains are still in development and until the age of 24 or 25 years, emotion and logic isn’t fully realized. That makes good decision-making more difficult. As a result, young adults are more apt to be risk takers or to act impulsively.
  • Problem gambling and older adults

    • Due to the aging process, older adults are at a greater risk of experiencing mental health challenges, including impaired memory, cognitive decline, and dementia (Stott 2006).
    • Older adults who do experience such impairments and engage in gambling have an increased risk of becoming problem gamblers, due to impaired abilities to self-limit their activities (CAMH 2004).
    • While older adult gamblers with a safe gambling habit commonly view gambling as an opportunity to socialize, approximately 65% of all problem gamblers gamble alone (IRPA 2008). Bernhard et al. (2007) found that gamblers between the ages of 50 and 64 are nearly twice as likely as those between ages 21 and 34 to gamble alone, thus socially isolating themselves through their gambling.
  • Problem gambling and cultural background

    • Some communities consider gambling a common pastime. That can make it difficult to recognize a problem, or make it harder to seek help.
    • Low English proficiency also makes some ethno-cultural groups more vulnerable to gambling harm and delayed help-seeking.
    • The prevalence of problem gambling is higher in people compared to non-Indigenous people (Breen & Gainsbury, 2013).
    • The average rate of problem gambling among Indigenous people in North America is between 10–20% and at least 4 times higher than among non-Indigenous populations (Williams et al., 2011).
    • Indigenous people living in urban areas have higher gambling participation than non-Indigenous Canadians, particularly for electronic gambling machines, instant lotteries, and bingo. Urban Indigenous people have higher gambling involvement than non-Indigenous Canadians, playing on average 3.1 gambling formats, spending $188 a month on gambling, and gambling once a month.  The rate of problem gambling in this population is 27.2%. Problem gambling is higher among males and those who are unemployed. The high rate of problem gambling in this sample is due in part to a low level of educational attainment, income, and employment (Williams et al., 2016).
    • Past year racial discrimination due to Indigenous race is a risk factor for problem gambling among urban Indigenous people (Currie et al., 2012).
  • Problem gambling and new immigrants

    • A large-scale national study of gambling severity among immigrant and non-immigrant adolescents found that first-generation immigrants had higher gambling severity and that not living with two parents increases gambling severity in first-generation immigrants (Canale, 2017).
    • Students who study outside their home countries may be at an increased risk of problem gambling behaviour (Mond et al, 2019).
    • A study found common themes of problem gambling from immigrant workers included: changing strategies for survival, forgetting oneself, obsession with making a fortune in one go and having no home to return to (Kang & Shin, 2019).
  • Problem gambling and socioeconomic status

    • Poor socioeconomic status predicts increased problem gambling harm (Dowling et al., 2017).
    • Lower socioeconomic status is linked to gambling twice a week and problem gambling (Barnes et al., 2017).
    • People in lower income brackets spend a larger percentage of their income on gambling than those in higher income brackets (Atlas, N.D.).
    • Risk of gambling harm increases when a person spends more than 1% of their family income on gambling (Currie et al., 2006).
    • The rate of problem gambling among homeless populations is about 9 times higher than in the general population (Ferris, 2016).
    • People living in the poorest neighbourhoods have 1.28 times the odds of developing a gambling problem compared to those who live in wealthier neighbourhoods. Problem gambling is twice as high among those with low socioeconomic status as for those with higher status. Those who live in the poorest neighbourhoods and have low socioeconomic status are at higher risk for problem gambling (Barnes et al., 2013).
  • Problem gambling combined with other problem behaviours or conditions

    • Frequency of alcohol use, cannabis use, depressive symptoms, illicit drug use, and tobacco use are associated with problem gambling (Dowling et al., 2017)
  • Problem gambling and gender

    • Men are more likely to experience problem gambling than women (Dowling et al., 2017).

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About the Responsible Gambling Council

The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting safer gambling by influencing positive change and advancing responsible gambling standards in Canada and around the world.

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