Ontario legalized online gambling last year in April. Since then, the industry has exploded in popularity and revenue.
Addictions councillor April Laithwaite of the Thames Valley Addictions and Mental Health Services has seen an increase in problematic online gambling over the last few months.
“After about November, December, and definitely this month in January, I have seen an increase in the amount of people that are coming through with problematic gambling. I’m wondering if that might be because now, they are starting to see the financial repercussions of the gambling, which is usually one of the first things that happens to bring them to treatment.”
A recent study shows that almost half of Ontarian adults have gambled online in the last year, which is almost 10% higher than the rest of the country.
While it is still too soon for to assume direct causation, Laithwaite says what she has seen is concerning.
“I am a frontline person who sees a lot of devastation from problematic online gambling. So, my thinking is more focused on the people who have come to see me who have had very negative consequences of online gambling.”
What she recommends to people who currently bet online or are planning to, is to set limits and boundaries before you gamble.
“I would recommend that people continue to engage in other meaningful activities. We know that the opposite of addiction is connection, so when you’re speaking openly about wins and losses and about gambling activity, you do so with friends and family.”
People that believe they are already struggling with problematic gambling should know they do not have to fight this issue alone. Laithwaite offers multiple programs including her own.
“They can reach out to us, at CMHA for some support. Connect with a councillor we have access to groups and treatment and support. There are other places like GA (gamblers anonymous). There are some online platforms for people to connect with. CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) has some very easily accessible online screeners and tools.”
Laithwaite reminds us with an important distinction when dealing with this issue, and those that suffer because of it.
“They are people that struggle with addiction… they are not addicts; they are people first.”
Anyone looking for more information or for help can find it here or call the Thames Valley Addictions and Mental Health Services at
(519) 673-3242 x1234.
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