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Canadian teens are gambling online in worrying numbers: study

Canadian teens are gambling

Canadian teens are gamblingToo many Canadian are teens gambling, says researchers.

A new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Waterloo finds that nearly 10 per cent of teens in three Canadian provinces report that they have gambled online in the past three months.

The study comes from the 2012-2013 Youth Gambling Survey conducted in conjunction with the Canadian Youth Smoking Survey in three provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Saskatchewan and was completed by a total of 10,035 students in grades nine to 12 (aged 13-19). Results showed a prevalence in online gambling that was significantly higher than determined by previous studies, finding that 9.4 per cent of teens reported gambling online during the past three months and a total of 41.6 per cent reported having gambled money or something of value in either offline or online gambling, with differences between the three provinces found to be negligible.

“This study clearly shows that many youth are gambling online despite restrictions,” say the study’s authors. “Further restrictions and harm reduction approaches are needed to ensure that the wide availability of online and simulated gambling does not lead to increases in problem gambling.”

The study found that for Canadian teens, popular gambling activities included dares or challenges (22 per cent), instant-win or scratch tickets (14 per cent), games of skill such as pool or darts (12 per cent), offline sports pools (9 per cent) and card games such as poker or blackjack (9 per cent). Gambling on the outcome of video games emerged as an area of concern, with 14.5 per cent of males and 5.1 per cent of females reporting that they engaged in the activity.

“The lines between gambling games and video games have become blurred as technology has changed,” say the authors. “Researchers have therefore become concerned that engaging in gambling with video games may increase the likelihood that gambling is viewed as more socially acceptable, may increase positive attitudes towards gambling, and could potentially increase the likelihood of problem gambling in the future.”

The researchers note that research on online gambling is still at an early stage, and given the increasing legalization of online gambling, more work is desperately needed on the topic. (Four Canadian provinces have legalized online gambling -Ontario, B.C., Manitoba and Quebec.)

Between 2003 and 2014 the online gaming industry grew from $7.4 to $39.5 billion (USD). Some industry practices aimed at gaining more customers – such as offering free demo versions of games and integrating gaming applications into video games and social networking sites like Facebook – are proving particularly successful with the youth market. One study in Australia found that a significant proportion of youth were engaging in simulated gambling, a practice that produces a greater risk for problem gambling.

A recent study in Italy found that gambling behaviour among teens was associated with other high-risk behaviours such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and energy drinks and smoking marijuana.

The Canadian study was published this month in the journal BMC Public Health.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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