Gambling in Canada is a popular pastime. The average Canadian household spends up to $1,000 on gambling each year. it is perfectly legal to enjoy gambling, both online and in land-based casinos, and Canada Maple Leaf Symbolmost Canadians gamble with few or no consequences.

However, gambling can quickly turn into a problem if the player does not keep a close watch on it. Too much gambling can have a negative impact on your personal life, your career, your household finances, and your physical and/or mental health. It is estimated that up to 3% of Canadians suffer from a gambling problem – roughly as many people as those who suffer from alcoholism.

The good news is that there is hope out there. In order to keep players safe, online casinos practice what’s called responsible gaming. Read on to find out about responsible gaming, what help is out there for players, and how to find assistance if you or someone close to you is having a hard time keeping their gambling under control.

Important: Underage gambling is illegal and both operators and legal guardians may be held liable for it. Check the legal gambling age in your province to make sure your gambling is not breaking the law.

ProvinceLegal Age to Gamble
Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec18
British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan19

Compulsive Gambling FAQ

What is bad about gambling?

There’s nothing wrong with gambling when done for fun and in moderation, but it needs to remain under control. It can quickly turn into a problem when it starts taking over your life.

How can I recognize a gambling problem?

Signs of problem gambling or gambling addiction include:

  • Lying about your gambling habits to friends and family
  • Chasing losses and trying to win back lost money
  • Borrowing money in order to be able to keep playing
  • Being unable to stop thinking about gambling
  • Being unable to fight the urge to play
  • Committing crimes to be able to carry on gambling
  • Neglecting important aspects of your life to focus on gambling

What does gambling do to your brain?

Problem gambling can be very harmful to your mental health. People who live with this addiction may experience depression, distress and other anxiety-related problems. Besides mental distress, it can also cause physical symptoms, such as intestinal disorders and migraine.

Just like any other addictions, being addicted to gambling can make you feel despondent and helpless. But it’s important not to give up hope, even when all seems lost. There is help out there.

Is gambling considered a mental illness?

Compulsive gambling is considered to be an addictive disorder if it meets certain criteria. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who gamble compulsively often have substance abuse problems, personality disorders, depression or anxiety. The problems brought about by gambling addiction can only serve to exacerbate or make these existing conditions worse.

How bad can gambling addiction get?

When you’re in the grip of a gambling addiction, everything becomes secondary to fulfilling your need to gamble. This can lead to terrible consequences, including:

  • Alienating and losing family and friends
  • Missing important relationship milestones
  • Losing huge sums of money
  • Incurring enormous debts
  • Going bankrupt
  • Losing your job
  • Losing your home
  • Ending up in prison for crimes you committed to be able to keep on gambling (such as theft or fraud)

What is Responsible Gaming?

Gaming companies have to take precautions to ensure their players are protected against the dangers of problem gambling.Contract and Magnifying Glass

All licensed and reputable operators are legally required to implement measures that promote responsible gambling. These include limits on deposits, bets and session times, as well as the option for players to self-exclude and freeze their casino account for a period of time.

It also extends to the protection of minors and underage persons from being exposed to gambling activity.

Problem gambling is a very real phenomenon which affects millions of people the world over. If you believe you or your loved one is suffering from a gambling problem, there are warning signs which will help you confirm this and organizations where you can seek the help and support.

What Help Can Online Casinos Provide to Players?

Online casinos are responsible to take measures to protect players from falling victim to gambling problems. They do this by implementing various tools across their site which can help you keep your gambling in check. These include setting limits on your deposits, mobile phonewagering amounts as well as the amount of time you spend on the site.

Cooling-off periods are a good way to take a break from gambling as players will be blocked from accessing the site during this time. There’s also the option to self-exclude by temporarily or permanently shut down your casino account. This can be re-opened after the self-exclusion period if the player wishes. Customer support at the will be able to help if players have any concerns.

There are also other measures you can take as a player to protect yourself such as unfollowing casino’s social media pages. Players can also install gambling blocking software (Gamblock, PlayScan) on PCs or mobiles.

Canadian Organizations That Help Fight Problem Gambling

The following organizations offer help and support for those experiencing some form of gambling problem.Canada Safety Council Logo

  • Canada Safety Council  

What they do: Provide more detailed information on gambling addiction, how to avoid it as well as a list of trusted helplines you can contact for help and support.

Contact info: https://canadasafetycouncil.org/gambling-addiction/

  • Canadian Centre for AddictionsCanadian Center For Addictions

What they do: List the warning signs to recognize gambling addiction as well as the various methods used to treat it. They also provide free screenings and assessments by qualified addiction counselors.

Contact info: https://canadiancentreforaddictions.org/understanding-addiction/gambling-addiction/

  • Problemgambling.ca

What they do: Offer interactive web tools to help you monitor and control your gambling urges as well as self-assessment tools and a community forum to share your experiences with others affected by gambling problems

Contact info: https://www.problemgambling.ca/gambling-help/

  • Responsible Gambling Council

What they do: Provide a list of groups which provide treatment services for gambling addiction in each province.

Contact info: https://www.responsiblegambling.org/get-help/find-treatment-in-your-province

WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE TO FIGHT GAMBLING ADDICTION?

If you believe that you have a gambling addiction, here are some ways that you can help yourself.

  • Develop better coping mechanisms. Many people become compulsive gamblers in an unhealthy attempt to manage other underlying problems in their lives. Healthier ways of managing this include exercise, practising relaxation techniques and taking up new hobbies.
  • Make sure you have a strong support network. In order to quit gambling, you need to have the support of friends and family, who will be there for you and help you stick to your decision. Find out if there is a Gamblers Anonymous group close to where you live, and reach out to people going through a similar experience.
  • Focus on your mental health. Gambling problems can be triggered or worsened by depression, stress, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Getting a handle on these problems will make it easier to shake a gambling addiction.
  • Seek help for your financial issues. Many people end up in the throes of gambling addiction whilst trying to shake off their debts. The odds are always stacked against you so it’s far better to seek help with debts from a credit counselor instead.

Of course. Gambling should only be considered a source of entertainment and never be stressful or affect your personal or professional life.

If this begins to happen, then it may be a warning sign that you need to take a break from gambling. You can do this by setting a cooling-off period, which will freeze your account for anywhere from 1 to 30 days, during which time you will not receive any promotions either. Another option is self-exclusion which allows players to shut down their account for longer periods of time, generally 6 months to a year or even permanently.

Absolutely. Most reputable online casinos provide the option to cap the amount of cash you deposit into your account as well as setting other limits too, such as how much you wager and the length of your gaming session.

This is a great way to help you set a budget and maintain better control over the amount you spend on online gaming.

When choosing to take a break from gambling, your  account will be frozen and remain dormant for the duration of  the cooling-off or self exclusion period.

During this time, you will be blocked from accessing the site as well as receiving any marketing content related to bonuses or promotions.

Online casinos are legally required to keep their players’ information for up to 5 years after the closure of their account. This include personal and banking information as well as any KYC and identity  documents submitted.

These regulations set by industry watchdogs and financial institutions to prevent fraud and money laundering through online casino channels.

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