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December 2003     Vol. 4, no. 12

Fighting the odds

Katherine Marshall and Harold Wynne

  • Three-quarters of Canadians 15 and over (18.9 million) gambled in 2002. According to the Problem Severity Gambling Index, the majority of these gamblers (93.7%) did so without any problems, while the remainder exhibited at-risk (5.7%) or problem (0.6%) gambling behaviour.
  • Buying lottery tickets was the most popular form of gambling (65.0% participation rate). Those who bought tickets as one of their gambling activities were the least likely to be at-risk or problem players (6.5%). Although playing video lottery terminals was less common (6.1% participation rate), it was the most addictive with 25.6% of players falling into the at-risk or problem categories.
  • Those significantly more likely to be at risk or to have a gambling problem included men (7.8%), Aboriginal persons (18.5%), those with less education (7.6%), and weekly (14.3%) or daily (30.3%) gamblers.
  • Compared with non-problem gamblers, those with a problem had significantly higher rates of alcohol dependence (15% versus 2%), psychological distress (29% versus 9%), family problems due to gambling (49% versus 0%), and financial problems due to gambling (70% versus 0%).
  • Of the 85% of problem gamblers who recognized they had a problem, over half said they had tried to stop gambling in the past year, but were unable to do so.
  • One-quarter of problem gamblers reported suffering major clinical depression at some point in their life, and one-fifth had contemplated suicide during the previous year.


Katherine Marshall is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-6890.

Harold Wynne is an adjunct professor with McGill University and the University of Alberta. He can be reached at (780) 488-5566. Both authors can be reached at

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