Gambling in the Aboriginal Community
Understanding the Game
Gambling has long been an
aspect of traditional Aboriginal
culture. In the past, gambling
has played a role in native ceremonies and community
celebrations, and has been used
to teach various skills.
The traditional use of gambling has changed
but the definition remains the same: gambling
means risking money or valuables on an activity
with an unknown outcome. Gambling activities
now include bingo, scratch tickets, pull-tabs,
horse racing, casino games, slots, etc. When
gambling becomes a problem in Aboriginal culture
it is not only the individual who is affected
but the whole family and entire community.
Low-risk gamblers understand that, while they
may get lucky from time to time, over the long
run they will lose money. They know that the
games work that way.
Low-risk gambling is a way of playing with
very little chance of losing control. The key to
low-risk gambling is to realize that “it’s only
Balance. Wellness. Healthy Living.
Avoiding the Risks
- Maintain values of the Seven Grandfather
teachings: love, honesty, respect, bravery,
humility, truth, and wisdom
- Don’t gamble to escape from problems -
find alternatives to gambling in your community
- Determine how much you can afford to gamble
and stick to this money limit
- Never borrow money to gamble
- Make sure your children are safe and well
cared for (Protection & Nourishment)
- Plan family events that don’t involve gambling
- Don’t use gambling as a reward or as a rite
of passage e.g. going to bingo to celebrate
a 16th birthday
Signs of Trouble
Problem gamblers lose the sense
that it’s only a game. They may
begin to look at gambling as a way
to make money. They often think
that they have special luck or
abilities. When they lose money,
they tend to “chase their losses,” betting even more to win back
money that has been lost. The result
is a vicious circle of increasing
losses and increasing bets.
- Are you leaving your children alone or with
community members for long periods of
time, in order to gamble?
- Are you gambling family money needed for
rent/mortgage, groceries, clothes or heat?
- Do you feel you have to gamble to spend
time with the people you care about?
- Are you ignoring family or community
responsibilities to gamble?
- When you are with your family, at work or
at social events, are you constantly thinking
about your next bet?
- Do you look at gambling as a way to
If you answered yes to any of the above
questions, there is help available.
Thanks to D. Boissoneau, Garden River Wellness
Centre; M. Drake CGC, Ontario Métis Aboriginal
Association; A. Lemay, Sault Area Hospital
Addictions Treatment Clinic.