Gambling - Overview

Young Canadians today are growing up in a culture where gambling is legal, easily accessible – especially online – and generally presented as harmless entertainment.

Approximately four to six per cent of Canadian high school students are addicted to gambling and another 10 to 14 per cent is at risk of developing an addiction – which means that they already show signs of losing control over their gambling behaviour. [1]

Young people are increasingly turning to Internet gambling, which is anonymous and convenient. A study of Montreal, Quebec high school students showed that nine per cent have gambled for money on the Internet. [2]

Youth don’t need to gamble with money online however, and kids from a young age are learning that online gambling is a fun and harmless activity. For example, many young people bet on sporting events on sites that offer prizes to the best players and many social networking sites geared to youth, such as Facebook, include free gambling applications.

There are also a number of Internet sites and apps that offer youth the option to play casino type games such as slot machines and blackjack without using money – while displaying winnings and losses in terms of dollars, These kinds of sites and applications  train young people how to gamble, in the hope that when they get credit cards, they will be more likely to move on to sites where real money is used. In many cases these practice sites have a higher win rate than the pay sites, to more effectively encourage young gamblers.

Gambling training begins very early online. For example, Neopets is an immensely popular site among Canadian preteens, where users create virtual pets and take care of them. Many of the games on the site, such as “The Neopian Lottery” and “Fruit Machine”, have gambling themes inspired by casinos games.

In May 2012, the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) released a policy statement on gambling in children and adolescents. 

Among the CPS recommendations:

  • Physicians and healthcare providers should screen for gambling problems, as well as depression and suicide risk in adolescents already known to have a gambling problem.
  • Parents should be aware of the signs of problem gambling and monitor their children’s online activities and gambling habits.


[1] Gambling problems. International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors.
[2] Derevensky, Gupta, and McBride, 2006. Internet Gambling Among Youth: A Preliminary Examination.