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by Delaney Windigo

Few people acknowledge gambling addictions, yet it is becoming more of a public health issue. The gambling industry has yearly revenues of $2.7 billion making it Canada’s biggest consumption tax. In increasing numbers youth are contributing to those revenues.

A 2007 national study using community health data found youth aged 15 to 24 were at greater risk of problem gamblers over 25.

“Over 75 per cent of Canadians 15 and above gamble… five per cent exhibit at risk or problem gambling behaviour,” according to health geographer Dana Wilson.

Gambling is any activity involving the risk of money or something of value. At any given casino people of all ages are taking part in gambling. But why are people indulging in this risky behaviour?

“The appeal of gambling is money and uncertainty,” said Wilson.

 The potential loss of money doesn’t seem to deter people from continuing to gambling. University of Regina student Semhar Tumzzghi said, “I don’t ever consider the losses because it’s not always going to be your way.”

Tumzzghi participates in some form of gambling at least once a week. She got her start in gambling when her sister began working in a casino five years ago. Tumzzghi gambles at the casino, plays Proline and scratch and win tickets.

“It’s like a second job to me. I see it as another source of income. I’m willing to take the risk for the gain and it’s also a fun pastime. I can do it alone,” said Tumzzghi. “Gambling is a good source of money. A lot of people ask me, ‘are you up?’ Yes you are up because it’s money that you never expected to have,” said Tumzzghi.

However, there are health issues involved in this behaviour. “A proportion of gamblers gamble excessively and experience a variety of difficulty,” said Wilson. But gamblers don’t share the same views as Wilson and accept the risk involved.

Although there are female gamblers, Wilson’s research found that males are two to four times more likely to gamble than females. She does not know why this is so. She speculates males feel they have more to prove or to show off in front of their peers.

“Gambling has a much wider appeal across the population from adults to seniors to young adults and to youth,” said Wilson.

Her research, conducted in Montreal showed that gambling venues are more concentrated in inner city, low income neighbourhoods. Her study showed that in the inner city areas there were more video lottery terminals in a 500 metre radius than in affluent neighbourhoods. Where the median household income decreased, the VLT count increased.

Although her research took place in Montreal, Regina residents could easily relate to the findings. Casino Regina is located downtown near North Central- Regina’s inner city.  

Some gamblers may consider the activity recreational, yet some still admit it can become a problem.

 “I think that if I had more money I’d become addicted,” said Tumzzghi. “I think that’s the fine line between addiction and non-addiction. I’m not addicted because I don’t have enough money and I have the rationale to think I have other priorities for my money. But once I have more money, I’d definitely probably become a more serious gambler.”

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