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

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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 a game.” 

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 make money?

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.

Aboriginal Girl

This information is also available for download:

For bulk requests of the brochure, or other inquiries, please complete this form.

Or look for support in your community:

  • Speak to elders 
  • Talk to a spiritual advisor 
  • Consider attending a talking circle 
  • Contact your community’s Wellness Centre