Are your clients at greater risk of problem gambling?

New data from Statistics Canada shows that certain groups are at greater risk

Are your clients at greater risk of problem gambling?
Steve Randall

Buying a lottery ticket or a wager on the NHL is something that many Canadians enjoy, but when does gambling become a risk?

Problem gambling can happen for varied reasons and the behaviours that frequently result can be destructive to the individual and to their family and friends.

The Canada Safety Council says that addiction to gambling is linked to “a range of serious personal and social harms such as depression and suicide, bankruptcy, family breakup, domestic abuse, assault, fraud, theft, and even homelessness.”

But it adds that the lies to cover up where an addicted gambler has been, or where the money has gone, can make it hard for even their loved ones to identify gambling as the problem.

New data from Statistics Canada reveals who gambles and who experiences gambling problems in Canada.

Looking at stats from the Canadian Community Health Survey, Gambling Rapid Response from 2018 it found that those at higher risk of problem gambling include:

  • men
  • persons living in lower-income households
  • those who were single, divorced or separated
  • those who rated their mental health as fair or poor
  • those who participated in many different gambling activities

The study was based on data from before the pandemic and before the legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada in 2021.

Gambling overall (not just problem gambling) was more popular in 2018 among those aged 45-64, especially men.

Wealthy vs. poor

Asked if they had gambled in the past year, 71% of higher-income households said they had, along with 54% of those from lower-income households.

However, while 1% of the wealthier respondents were deemed at moderate-to-high risk of gambling problems, the risk for those who were poorer was three times as high (3%).

With lower discretionary incomes, even modest spending on gambling is likely to be a higher share of the household’s total spending.

Two thirds of respondents said they gambled in 2018, with buying a lottery ticket topping the list (52%) followed by instant win lottery tickets, online games, electronic terminals, sports, and casino.

At 4%, speculative financial markets activity ranked alongside bingo in popularity. Although when split by gender, 6% of men favoured speculative financial markets with the same share of women preferring bingo.

Identifying the risk

If loved ones may find it challenging to spot the signs of problem gambling, financial advisors may also be unaware of issues.

However, the Canada Safety Council ( says there are some things to look out for, including some that FAs may notice (the more noticed, the more likely there could be problem):

  • Is your family member or colleague often late for work or school?
  • Are they gone for long unexplained periods?
  • Do they neglect responsibilities, and make excuses?
  • Have they withdrawn from family and friends?
  • Do they have mood swings and sudden outbursts of anger?
  • Is there less money available, even though income has not changed?
  • Is money missing from the house or from bank accounts?
  • Are they secretive and bad tempered about money?
  • Do they have money conflicts with others?
  • Do they talk about gambling all the time?
  • Do they lie about gambling?

It’s important to remember that help is available for those with gambling problems and a list of helplines is available at (search for gambling helplines).