A recent in-depth study on gambling addiction in Canada has determined that moderate risk and problem gambling clearly disrupts family and interpersonal relationships over the short to medium term but its impact on the long term ability of familial bonds to recover from disruption is less clear.
Gambling addiction: Ontario study reveals risk
The study surveyed and tracked a sampling of 4,211 residents of southeastern Ontario between 2006 and 2010 to assess how at-risk and problem gambling affected family functioning, social support networks and personal mental health.
Previous research has demonstrated a link between problem gambling and so-called ‘collateral’ effects on a gambler’s family and friends. Rates of mental health problems, for example, are higher among people with a family member who gambles and problem gambling has been associated with both marital violence and low social support. And a 1999 commission on Australia’s gambling industry estimated that an average of seven people are adversely affected by a severe problem gambler’s behaviour.
The results of the current study show that risk and problem gambling impact families and relationships in a wave-like manner, disrupting the regular functioning of families and relationships at periodic intervals. According to the study’s authors, this suggests that gambling problems “function as interpersonal ‘shocks’ that precede short-term crises in families and support networks.”
Over the long term, however, problem gambling was not found to result in significant changes to family and interpersonal relations, indicating to the authors both that potential long term effects of gambling on complex dynamics like those of a family are hard to isolate and that interpersonal and family relationships are often capable of withstanding the periodic disruptions caused by problem gambling. “The absence of discernible effects on overall trajectories indicates that gambling problems do not necessarily ‘launch’ individuals into long-term patterns of interpersonal maladjustment,” say the authors.
Canada has not had legalized gambling for long…
Legalized gambling in Canada was practically non-existent until the country underwent a major transition in response to amendments to the Criminal Code in 1970 and 1985, effectively giving provinces the right to operate ‘lottery schemes’ through computer, video device or slot machine and ushering in a wave of revenue generating enterprises. Based on 2011 statistics, Canada is home to 70 casinos, 188 bingo facilities, 96,000 electronic gambling machines, 222 race track wagering venues and 30,090 lottery ticket outlets, with gross revenues totaling $13.9 billion as of 2011.
The rapid development of Canada’s gambling industry also brought about social reverberations which have never been adequately addressed, according to the industry’s critics. In the book “Casino State -Legalized Gambling in Canada”, co-author James Cosgrave, professor of sociology at Trent University in Oshawa looked at aspects of gambling and their aftermath.” argues that the expansion of the industry “exceeded the implementation of programs to deal with the problem.”
Gambling addiction in Canada could rise with new legislation
Currently before the House of Commons is a private members’ bill seeking to further expand gambling in Canada. Entitled the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, it would strike from the Criminal Code the section prohibiting wagering on “any race or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest.”
So, are you worried that you have a gambling addiction but don’t know how to tell. A recent study out of the University of Calgary found that the low-risk gambling cut-off was eight times per month, a total of $75 per month, and 1.7 per cent of income going towards gambling.
The study was published in the journal Addiction.