What is Gambling?

Gambling is defined as risking something of value when an element of chance is associated with the outcome. While many think of gambling as an activity that only takes place in a Casino for money, we do in fact engage in gambling behaviour in a number of other activities.

Some non-traditional forms of gambling include:

  • Betting on the outcome of a TV show
  • Arcade Games
  • Card games such as Pokémon
  • Stag n Doe/Fair games
  • Making wagers on video games
  • Betting on card games with family and friends

Why do people choose to gamble?

  • Entertainment
  • Excitement
  • Ego
  • Economics
  • Escape




Internet Gambling

Any form of gambling in which the activity is played through access to the internet.

Internet Gambling vs. Offline Gambling

Studies show that internet gamblers play more excessively than offline gamblers and are more at risk of developing a gambling problem (1).


Why do people gamble online?

  • Free games and trial (“practice”) sites
  • Incorporates video-game technology
  • Initial deposit bonuses
  • Graphics add to the excitement of the game
  • Perceived elements of skill
  • Convenience and ease of access
  • Escape and anonymity



Youth Gambling

Today’s youth are exposed to gambling at a young age (2) and often are not given accurate and clear information about this potentially risky activity. While young people cannot legally gamble until the age of 18 and 19 current research shows that youth engage in almost all type of gambling activities; from betting with friends to sports betting (3). Studies show that over 60% of North American youth have gambled for money (4). In Ontario almost 40% of youth in grades 7-12 have participated in at least one gambling activity in the past year (5).

Youth begin gambling for a variety of reasons such as the thrill/excitement, competiveness, social aspects, and as a coping mechanism (5). In addition, youth believe that gambling provides a solution to boredom, social opportunities, and a feeling of autonomy (4).


What type of Gambling activities/games are Youth participating in?

The 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) found that amoung Ontario students in Grade 7-12, card games are the most popular gambling activity with 10.7% of those surveyed stating they prefer this activity over others (5). In addition the OSDUHS found that gambling participation increases with age with a peak in participation in Grade 12 (5). Research has also found that there is an increasing number of youth that are gambling online and through social media for virtual currency and that doing so may lead to actual gambling activities for money (3).




Youth Problem Gambling

As with adults and gambling, adolescence’s participation in gambling does not automatically correlate to problem gambling and addiction. However, research indicates that youth are at a higher risk of developing a problem with gambling due to their risk taking nature and emerging cognitive decision making skills (2). Multiple studies found that between 2-8% of youth suffer from problem gambling and another 10-15% are at risk of developing a gambling problem (3).

Research agrees that Gambling is best understood on a continuum ranging from the no gambling to problem gambling and that individuals may travel back and forth on this continuum throughout their lifetime (3). A recent study also found that youth move from social and recreational gambling to problem gambling rapidly (3).




Signs and Symptoms of Problem Gambling

  • Being criticized about your gambling
  • Spending more time or money than you intended
  • Lying about your gambling or stealing to pay back debts
  • Increasing your spending or chasing your losses
  • Losing interests in other activities
  • Letting school or work suffer

signs and symptoms of problem gambling




Positive Play Strategies

The vast majority of people that gamble do so without a problem. If you engage in gambling there are a number of strategies to keep in mind to reduce the harm that could be associated with gambling and keep gambling play positive.

  • Gamble with others and set time limits
  • Hope to win, expect to lose
  • Have a plan B- other things to do
  • Alcohol and gambling do not mix
  • Don’t carry more money than you are prepared to lose
  • Keep gambling is entertainment that has a cost
  • Understand that losing a game does not change who you are




  1. Sylvia Kairouz, Catherine Paradis, and Louise Nadeau. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. March 2012, 15(3): 175-180. doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0260
  2. R Gupta, JL Pinzon; Canadian Paediatric Society Adolescent Health Committee 2012; 17(5):263-4
  3. Jeffery Derevensky L. Youth Gambling: Some Current Misconceptions. Austin J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2015; 2(2):1039
  4. Gambling Research Exchange Ontario; Focus on Adolescents & Problem Gambling Evidence Round up
  5. 2013 OSDUHS Mental Health and Well-Being Report
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