By Shayonna Cole
Linval Thomas, a 42-year-old gambler located in Brampton, said that his gambling habit started small and he didn’t expect it to become an issue.
It started on his thirtieth birthday when he received a lottery ticket from a friend.
“I’ve never really thought much about gambling or betting before in my whole life,” Thomas said.
The Canadian government made it legal in 2021 to place bets on the outcome of a single event, known as “single-wager betting.” Score Media and Gaming Incorporated’s popular sports betting app called “The Score” is one of Canada’s biggest digital media platforms for sports-related gambling. In their submission to the Standing Committee for Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act in favour of single-wager betting, they claim the Bill will provide more “safe and responsible” free wagering.
However, this law makes it more accessible to users to make small profits from the comfort of their homes.
During the late 1870s, the Canadian government passed laws banning gambling and gaming. The Canadian Criminal Code officially prohibited all forms of gambling in 1892.
The Canadian government saw the value in gaming, especially with lotteries. The Criminal Code was changed in 1969 to permit provincial and federal lotteries, which led to the first openings of lottery games in Manitoba and Quebec.
“Before I knew it, I started buying a lottery ticket every week and it was something that I could easily manage,” Thomas said. “I guess the addiction started when my buddy told me about the games he bets on. I think that’s when I started losing myself.”
According to Statistics Canada, a Government agency site, gambling is common in Canada and affects 64.5 per cent of Canadians.
The Canadian Gaming Association reported that Canada has the eighth-highest number of consumers who gamble, and the gambling industry provides 135 000 jobs which are worth $15 billion.
Lisa O’Ryan, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother of four, sa can you see my list ys that she’s worried that her nineteen-year-old son is following in her husband’s gambling footsteps.
“He has always looked up to his father for as long as I can remember,” O’Ryan said. “It would start as little things like placing a few innocent bets on Monopoly, but they seemed minor to me.”
According to Connex Ontario, a Mental Health, Addiction, and Problem Gambling Services site, one sign of gambling is if your loved ones think you have a problem.
O’Ryan said that her son’s mood has changed since the moment her husband let him place an online bet for his eighteenth birthday.
“My husband always tells me that I’m making a big deal out of this or that I’m overreacting, but he doesn’t see what this is doing to our son,” she said.
According to Tech Addiction, the symptoms of gambling include using gambling as a way to deal with problems or lying to family members and friends.
O’Ryan noticed when her son began isolating himself, which is one behaviour of gambling addiction.
In just one year, the new legal iGaming market in Ontario has delivered about $35.6 billion in total wagers, and approximately $1.4 billion in total gaming revenue, placing the province among the top 5 iGaming jurisdictions in North America.
iGaming officially opened one year ago on April 4, 2022. As part of its efforts to establish a legal framework, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) worked to allow single-event betting in the province.
Shawn Rumble, an addiction specialist and therapist in Windsor, Ont., said that it’s easier for someone to develop an addiction if it runs in the family.
“When it comes to risk factors, normalization within the family is one. Let’s say your partner or parent has an addiction, you’re more than likely to pick up on that addiction,” Rumble said.
Rumble said several protective factors fall under the category of addiction that a person can easily spot.
“Addiction is a very isolating disorder, and this is general for all addictions,” Rumble said. “It comes with a loss of interest in things that they once enjoyed, and it can vary from person to person.”
According to Mayo Clinic, there are several risk factors when it comes to the online betting market, such as mental health issues, age, characteristics, and influence.
The study reported that recreational gamblers either give up when they lose or set a maximum amount they’re willing to lose. However, compulsive gamblers feel obliged to keep gambling to win back their money, a behaviour that worsens over time.
People with a compulsive gambling problem may experience periods of remission, a period when they gamble less or not at all. The remission, however, is usually not permanent without treatment.
Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship where men and women can come together to share their experiences and common problem for gambling. They follow a twelve-step program which is the initial foundation of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. It is an anonymous program where only first names are required, but aims to help people who have addictions.
Lu R., the Executive Director at Gamblers Anonymous located in Toronto, cannot provide her whole name because of the anonymity the group has. She said that her job is to help bring people together who are struggling.
“We believe that we can abstain but are we ever really cured,” she said. “The medical industry has now qualified addiction as a disease.”
Lu said that addictions are incurable but Gamblers Anonymous has a mission to help individuals with their recovery journey.
“Will it ever go away completely? You know for myself, I’d have to say no,” she said.
The American Psychiatric Association said that repeated gambling behaviour is a sign of a gambling disorder. The actions cause issues for the person, their families, and society as a whole, such as having frequent thoughts about gambling.
Derek Longmeier, the Executive Director at Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said that the outcome for gambling addictions are all the same.
“You’ve got family history that is one, ageist, first youth is another, so the earlier someone starts, the more likely they are to develop a problem,” Longmeier said.
He said that a history of substance abuse and mental health disorders can also be a risk factor for gambling.
Problem Gambling Network of Ohio offers assistance and support to help improve Ohio’s problem gambling service system.
“Our focus is really making sure that we have resources available to Ohio once you need them,” he said.
According to Good Therapy, a blog that focuses on addiction and recovery, it’s possible to get treated for gambling addiction. The blog reports that the key to treatment and recovery is to treat the underlying emotions that lead to that addiction, such as psychological pain.
“We do see people recover every day,” Longmeier said. “One of our main messages is that hope is available, and people do recover, so we need to just make those connections because otherwise, we’d be wasting a lot of time if we didn’t think that people could get better.”