What is Gambling?

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A person is gambling whenever he or she takes the chance of losing money or belongings, and when winning or losing is decided mostly by chance. Gambling  ...
What is Gambling? A person is gambling whenever he or she takes the chance of losing money or belongings, and when winning or losing is decided mostly by chance. Gambling in Canada has grown at an unprecedented rate over the last decade and is an increasingly popular recreational activity. While gambling was once illegal, or viewed as a disreputable activity, social norms have shifted. Gambling is now a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada, and its growth is likely to continue. Surveys indicate that the general population favours funding charities, health care and other important initiatives through the funds raised from gambling. While some may consider gambling only to be associated with casinos and racetracks, there are countless activities that are considered gambling.

There are many different ways to gamble, including: 

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Casino games (Craps, dice, Sic Bo (Chinese dice game), Pai Gow Tiles (Chinese Dominoes), slot machines, Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Three Card Poker, Casino War, Baccarat, Spanish 21, Pai Gow Poker and others) Bingo Keno Slot machines Lottery tickets Scratch, Nevada or pull-tab tickets Betting on card games, mah-jong or dominoes Betting on horse racing Others ports betting Betting on games of skill, such as golf or pool Tombola and similar games Internet gambling Stock market speculation

There are different reasons why people choose to gamble. Individuals may be gambling to win money, to socialize, for excitement or to pass time. For some people, gambling may become a serious problem that affects all aspects of their lives. And as gambling becomes more accessible, the number of people affected by problem gambling also increases.

Elements of gambling: 

One needs to realize that by gambling, something valuable is being put at risk

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The outcome of the game is determined by chance Once a bet is made, it is irreversible.

Source: Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario – What is Gambling?

What are Odds? Simply speaking, “Odds” is the term used to describe the chances a person placing a bet has of winning. In gambling:   

Odds are the chances of winning Odds are always against the person placing the bet “House” always has the edge

In every betting game, the odds are against the player. That means that the “house” (the casino, bingo hall, racetrack, lottery commission etc.), is absolutely guaranteed, mathematically, to “win” over time. For every millionaire that is created from lottery winnings, there are millions of others who have lost their money! The longer you gamble; the more likely it is you will lose. Many people who develop problems associated with their gambling have the false belief that they will be able to 'beat the system', while others may not understand that the odds are just against them and that over time, they will lose money.

Comparing the Odds: The Odds of winning the Lotto 649 are approximately 1 in 14 million.     

A person has a 1 in 3 million chance of sighting an UFO. That's almost 5 times more likely than winning the jackpot. You are more likely to die of a flesh eating disease (1 in 1 million) than winning the lottery. That's 14 times more likely than winning the jackpot.** You are more likely to be killed by lightening (1 in 56,439) than win the lottery. That's almost 250 times more likely than winning the jackpot.** You are more likely to be killed in a traffic accident driving 16 km to purchase a ticket than winning the jackpot** Imagine you are standing blindfolded on a football field holding a pin. A friend has released an ant on the field. Your chance of piercing that ant with your pin is about one in 14 million, the same odds of winning the Lotto 6/49 jackpot.** The odds of winning the top prize at maximum coin play on the slot machines ranges from 1 in 4,096 to 1 in 33,554,000***.

Another way to look at the odds of winning the lottery jackpot: Mrs. Jane Doe lives somewhere in Ontario. Try reaching her by randomly dialing one of 12.5 million Ontario phone numbers. (According to the Ministry of Finance, there are approximately 12.5 million Ontario residents.) Your odds of contacting Mrs. Doe with the phone are better than winning the lottery.

References: **CBC News Online: What are the Odds, Not a Lotto Chance: Oct. 24, 2005 ***British Columbia Partnership for Responsible Gambling: Understanding the Odds Source: Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario – What are Odds?

What is Problem Gambling? Not all people who gamble excessively are alike, nor are the problems they face. People with gambling problems are found in all age groups, income groups, cultures and jobs. Some people develop gambling problems suddenly, others over many years. There are many reasons why a gambling problem may develop. For example, some people develop problems when they try to win back money they have lost, or because they like to be “in the action.” Others have many life stresses that make gambling a welcome relief. Problem gambling is not just about losing money. Gambling problems can affect a person’s whole life. Gambling is a problem when it:     

gets in the way of work, school or other activities harms your mental or physical health hurts you financially damages your reputation causes problems with your family or friends.

Source: Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario – Information About Problem Gambling

What to Call Problem Gambling The 3 most common names used to describe over-involvement in gambling are:  compulsive gambling;  pathological gambling; and  problem gambling.

Compulsive Gambling “Compulsive gambling” is a term familiar to the general public and used in the United States and by Gamblers Anonymous. The term is not entirely accurate, though, because gambling is not a compulsive disorder. It is classified as an impulse control disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, Revised Edition (DSM-IV-R), the publication of the American Psychiatric Association that is used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental health problems. An impulse control disorder can be loosely defined as the inability to resist an impulsive act. However, there is also disagreement about whether gambling belongs in this category.

Pathological Gambling “Pathological gambling” is the diagnostic term used in the DSM-IV-R. Pathological gambling is defined as a maladjusted practice characterized by persistent and repetitive playing that is present when patients meet 5 or more of the following criteria:  they are preoccupied with gambling;  they need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to attain the desired state of excitement;  they have repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to control, cut back or stop gambling;  they are restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling;  they gamble as a way of escaping from problems or relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression);  after losing money gambling, they often return another day to get even;  they lie to family, a therapist or others to conceal the extent of their gambling;  they have committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance gambling;  they have jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job or educational or career opportunity because of gambling; or  they rely on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.

Problem Gambling "Problem Gambling" is the term that is mostly used in Canada. It is descriptive and is compatible with the notion that this problem can be very large or very minor. People do not have to lose everything in their lives before getting help for “problem” gambling. Therefore, the term is broader and more inclusive. It is often used to describe gambling behaviour that involves some type of harmful consequence. Problem gambling includes, but is not limited to, compulsive gambling and pathological gambling. It is often considered the most effective term

because it does not label or stigmatize the person with the problem in the way “pathological” or “compulsive” can.

Why Does It Matter What We Call It? The behaviour – gambling problematically – is the issue on which to focus. People have the problem, but they are not the problem. For example, calling someone a “problem gambler” can reduce him/her to one thing: a problem. Describing the situation rather than labelling the person – for example, “someone with a gambling problem” or “someone affected by gambling” – is less blaming and reduces stigma. Source: Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario – What to Call Problem Gambling

False Beliefs about Gambling Outcomes People often hold false beliefs or myths about gambling that can lead to problems. Some of the more common ones are listed below.

If I keep gambling, my luck will change and I'll win back the money I've lost. Reality: Each time you place a bet, the outcome is completely independent of the previous one. This means that the odds are no more in your favour on the tenth bet than they were on the first bet. Over time, the more you risk, the more you’ll lose.

I almost won; I must be due for a win. Reality: "Almost" winning in no way means that a real win is around the corner. Future gambling outcomes are in no way influenced by previous outcomes.

If I play more than one machine or game at a time, I'll increase my chances of winning. Reality: Sure, you may win more often by playing two slot machines or poker games at a time, but make no mistake about it: You’ll also spend—and ultimately lose—more doing so. Remember, over time, the more you gamble, the more you’ll lose.

If I see a certain card coming up frequently in a poker game, I should bet on it because chances are it will come up again very soon. Reality: There are 2.6 million possible hands in a deck of 52 cards. Since each hand is independent of the last, the chance of one card coming up again once it's already appeared is no more (or less) likely than that of any other card.

I have a special strategy that helps me win. I pick certain numbers for the lottery and press the stop button on a slot machine at exactly the right time.

Reality: The outcome of most games of chance, particularly lotteries and slot machines, is completely random: You cannot influence it, regardless of what you do. For lotteries, this means that betting the same numbers every week won't help you win any more than betting different numbers will. The odds of winning Lotto 6/49, for example, are 1 in 14 million each and every time you play: It doesn’t matter how many people have purchased tickets or what numbers you play—the odds are the same, regardless. Whether or not you win playing slot machines is based solely on the randomly drawn numbers generated by the machine’s computer—numbers which determine the game’s outcome even before the reels stop. Pressing the stop button may speed up when you find out what the game’s outcome is, but it won’t influence what that outcome is in any way.

I have a feeling that today is my lucky day. I just know I’m going to win. Reality: Hoping, wishing or even needing to win money has absolutely no influence on the outcome of a game of chance. Source: Responsible Gambling Council – Common Myths about Gambling

Signs and Symptoms of Problem Gambling Here are common behavioural, emotional, health and financial signs of problem gambling:

Behavioural Signs: The individual:  stops doing things he or she previously enjoyed  misses family events  changes patterns of sleep, eating or sex  ignores self-care, work, school or family tasks  has conflicts over money with other people  uses alcohol or other drugs more often  leaves children alone, seems less concerned about who looks after them, neglects their basic care  thinks about gambling all the time  is less willing to spend money on things other than gambling  cheats or steals to get the money to gamble or pay debts  has legal problems related to gambling  is often late for work or school  organizes staff pools  is gone for long, unexplained periods of time  neglects personal responsibilities.

Emotional signs The individual:  withdraws from family and friends  seems far away, anxious or has difficulty paying attention  has mood swings and sudden outbursts of anger  complains of boredom or restlessness  seems depressed or suicidal.

Financial signs The individual:  frequently borrows money or asks for salary advances  takes a second job without a change in finances  cashes in savings accounts, RRSP's or insurance plans  alternates between being broke and flashing money  family members complain that valuables and appliances are disappearing, or money is missing from a bank account or wallet.

Health signs: The individual complains of stess-related health problems, such as:  headaches  stomach and bowel problems  difficulty sleeping  overeating, or loss of appetite. Source: Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario – Signs of Problem Gambling

Tips for Safer Gambling For those who choose to gamble, there are some general principles that can help to make gambling safer and reduce the risk that problems will occur.

Don’t think of gambling as a way to make money. The bottom line is that gambling establishments like land-based casinos and online gambling sites are set up to take in more money than they pay out. This means that over time, you will lose more money than you win. And, remember it's not just casinos. All forms of gambling have the same principle – the vast majority of people lose so that a very small minority can have big wins. Virtually all people with gambling problems hold the false expectation that they are the ones who will be the big winners.

That belief feeds the problem.

Always gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Gamble with money that you set aside for fun, like going to the movies or going out for drinks. Never use money that you need for important things like rent, bills, tuition, etc.

Never chase losses. If you lose money, never try to get it back by going over your limit. This usually leads to even bigger losses.

Set a money limit. Decide how much money you can afford to lose before you play. When you have lost that amount of money, quit. If you win – enjoy, but remember it won’t happen most of the time.

Set a time limit. Decide how much time you can afford to spend gambling. When you reach that time limit, stop gambling.

Don’t gamble when you are depressed or upset. It is hard to make good decisions about gambling when you are feeling down.

Balance gambling with other activities. It’s important to enjoy other activities so that gambling doesn’t become too big a part of your life.

Gambling and alcohol are not a good combination. Gambling under the influence is common, but it generally leads people to make bad decisions that they regret later. Source: Responsible Gambling Council – Tips for Safer Gambling

Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline The Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline (OPGH) is an information and referral service available to members of the public, including problem gamblers, family/friends of problem gamblers, and service providers working with clients experiencing problems related to gambling. The Helpline links callers with problem gambling treatment resources in the Province of Ontario. As a dedicated, 1-888 province-wide toll-free telephone service, the OPGH provides immediate access to information about problem gambling treatment services, credit and debt counselling services, family services, self-help and other resources related to problem gambling.

Benefits of the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline       

It provides information about and referral to treatment It is available 24 hours a day It provides services in 140 different languages You will always reach a live person Services are free and confidential You can ask about any gambling-related question or concern It provides information about support for friends and families of people with gambling problems

Anyone concerned about their own or another person’s gambling may call. Help is available. Information and Referral Line – within Ontario – 1-888-230-3505 Email: [email protected]

Gaming Larger than the Hollywood movie industry, video games are the fastest growing form of media entertainment. With their use of cutting edge technologies, video games involve the player in every-more realistic, complex and involved gaming situations. Because of their high appeal, playing video games can be highly rewarding and also potentially addictive. Research shows that 8.5% of gamers demonstrate pathological play. Source: National Institute on Media and the Family

Risk Factors       

Low self-esteem Poor relationships Highly intelligent Imaginative Need for recognition/power Starting at a young age Family history of addiction

Warning Signs    

Preoccupied with gaming Lying or hiding gaming use Disobedience at time limits Loss of interest in other activities

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Social withdrawal from family and friends Psychological withdrawal from the game Using gaming as an escape Continuing to game despite its consequences

Physical Warning Signs       

Headaches Carpal tunnel syndrome Sleep disturbances Back/Neck aches Dry eyes Failure to eat properly Neglect personal hygiene

Resources: Online Games Anonymous Net Addiction The Centre for Internet and Technology Addiction Royal Canadian Mounted Police – Internet Safety Parent Further Information compiled by Homewood Health Centre in memory of Brandon Crisp.