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Gambling In Canada

Gambling is a $13 billion a year industry in Canada. There are approximately 87,000 electronic gaming machines (EGM's, include slot machines and VLT's), 33,000 lottery venders, 60 permanent casinos, 250 race tracks, and 25,000 licenses to operate bingos, raffles, and temporary casinos (Azmier, 2005). Over 75% of Canadians have gambled in the past year (Cox et al., 2005). Industry revenues indicate that the average Canadian household spends just over $1000 annually on gambling (Azmier, 2005).

Most Canadians gamble with few or no consequences. Gambling becomes a problem when it interferes with personal life, work life, personal and household finances, or physical and/or mental health. Up to 3% of Canadians suffer from a gambling problem (Cox et al., 2005). This rate is similar to the prevalence of alcoholism in Canada.

Electronic gaming machines include both slot machines and video lottery terminals (VLT's). The availability of these forms of gambling is positively related to rates of problem gambling in Canada.


This graph shows that provinces with a higher proportion of EGMs relative to their population, such as the Prairie Provinces, also have a greater problem prevalence compared to other provinces (Cox et al., 2005). Some gambling researchers have suggested that forms of gambling with short time durations between the bet and the outcome pose a greater risk of causing problem gambling, than forms with longer durations (Breen & Zimmerman, 2002; Korn & Shaffer, 1999). For example, a gambler playing an EGM will know if he or she has won within a few seconds, while lottery players may have to wait several days or weeks to know if they have won.


Data for graphs obtained from:

Williams, R.J., West, B.L., & Simpson, R.I. (2007). Prevention of problem gambling. In G. J. Smith, D.C. Hodgins, & R.J. Williams (Eds), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies (pp. 400-435). Burlington MA, Academic Press.

Responsible gambling guidelines exist to encourage safe gambling and reduce the risk that gambling will become a problem for an individual. Current guidelines suggest: setting a limit and sticking with it, gambling as a form of entertainment not a way to make money, not borrowing money to gamble, and not chasing loses. Although the impact of disseminating such advice on the gambling habits of the general public is not known, research suggests that most gamblers regulate their gambling behaviour by setting limits on how much money they spend and how often they gamble. However, there has been, until recently, little research on quantitative limits for gambling frequency, duration, and expenditure that defines responsible gambling.


* Further statistics and information about problem gambling in Canada can be found at:





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