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Large majority of Ontarians who gamble are aware of the risks: Survey

January 29, 2020

The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is delivering outreach programs across Ontario to raise awareness of risks associated with gambling and how people can protect themselves. These public education initiatives are supported by a new RGC survey of Ontarians that explores attitudes and behaviours about gambling.

RGC teams are interacting with people in various community settings, including colleges, universities and sporting venues, to highlight that gambling always carries risk and the value of making a plan about limits prior to gambling.

“The good news emerging from our survey is that the large majority of Ontarians who gamble are aware of the potential harms and take steps to protect themselves,” says Shelley White, CEO of RGC. “However, the findings also reveal how easy it can be to get carried away in the moment and underscore the need to protect yourself from the risks. Our programs communicate specific messages depending on the age group. These include the importance of setting time and money limits before gambling, to avoid emotional or impulsive decision making.”

The Community Outreach program involves an interactive game called Reaction Lab – a digital experience that simulates how the brain responds to stimulus, similar to when a person gambles.

There is also a team visiting colleges and universities across the province to educate young adults about how gambling can heighten emotional states, making it difficult to make informed decisions while gambling. This bilingual interactive program is called Check Your (Re)flex / Testez Vos (Ré)flexes. Similar to the Community Outreach program aimed at all age groups, this youth-focused advocacy shares signs of problem gambling common to young people and offers important tips such as setting and sticking to money and time limits.

Key survey findings

RGC’s new survey, which polled 1,411 Ontarian gamblers last fall, sheds light on attitudes, emotional responses and behaviours related to gambling.

  • 13.6 per cent of gamblers surveyed said at some point they gambled money they could not afford to lose.
  • One in three (33 per cent) did not always consider the amount of money they were prepared to lose before they gambled.
  • 31 per cent indicated they had spent more time gambling than they could afford at some point in the past six months.
  • 49 per cent did not always consider the amount of time they were prepared to gamble prior to playing.

Key findings related to young adults

The survey suggests young adults (18 to 24) are more vulnerable to the emotional rush of gambling, raising the threat level of high-risk behaviours.

  • 58 per cent said they gambled because it makes them feel good at least sometimes.
  • One in five (19.9 per cent) gambled to cope with depression or nervousness at least sometimes.
  • 33 per cent gambled to get a “high” feeling at least sometimes.
    Over a quarter (26.5 per cent) gambled to forget their worries at least sometimes.
  • 35 per cent gambled to cheer up when in a bad mood at least sometimes.
  • Other research shows 7.1 per cent of young adults have some type of gambling problem and nearly eight-in-10 Ontarians aged 18 to 24 (76.9 per cent) gambled in the past year.

Plan before you play

One of RGC’s key outreach messages for those who gamble is the value of having a plan in place prior to playing to manage potential risks before they appear. This involves setting strict loss and win limits and allocating a set amount of time in advance. When any of these planned limits are reached, the appropriate/best/ response is to walk away.

Part of a solid plan includes taking frequent breaks. It’s important to pause, reflect, and re-evaluate time or money spent. Setting a phone alarm makes for an easy reminder to take a break from gambling.

Another important message, particularly for young adults, is to be aware that one’s emotional state can impact decisions while gambling. Limiting alcohol or drugs, not gambling when depressed or worried and not using gambling as a way to feel better are all important ways to minimize risk.

Young people can gain valuable insights into the risks associated with gambling by visiting CheckYourReflex.ca and TestezVosRéflexes.ca


Between November 28th and December 12th, 2019, the Responsible Gambling Council conducted a province-wide survey of Ontarian adults aged 18+. With the help of Delvinia’s AskingCanadians panel, a total of 2,011 online surveys were completed (including a sample of 1411 gamblers). The survey data was weighted to reflect Ontario’s age and gender distribution, according to most recent Census data. Based on a 95% confidence level, the survey results have a margin of error +/- 2.19%.

The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention. RGC works to reduce gambling risks by creating and delivering innovative awareness and information programs, for a wide range of different groups including youth, young adults and the general public.

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