What it is
Gambling is any activity in which a person risks money (or something of value) on an event that has an uncertain outcome. A variety of gambling activities—slot machines, VLTs, card games, lottery tickets, and games of skill—are available to Canadians, both online and offline. People often gamble to win prizes, socialize or pass the time, or to support a charity or fundraising event. Gambling is legal in Canada. While most people who gamble do it without developing problems, it does pose potential risks and health concerns.
Signs of a possible problem
Problem gambling is not just about losing money. Gambling can affect a person’s whole life. You—or a loved one—may experience problems in any of the following ways.
- missing family events
- changing patterns of sleep, eating, or sex
- ignoring self-care, work, school
- neglecting kids
- often late for work or school
- gone for long, unexplained periods of time
- mood swings or sudden outbursts of anger
- boredom or restlessness
- depressed or suicidal
- borrowing or stealing money
- taking a second job without a change in finances
- cashing in savings accounts
- alternating between being broke and flashing money
- stomach and bowel problems
- difficulty sleeping
- overeating or loss of appetite
Risks include spending more money than you intended to spend, falling behind at work due to time spent gambling, conflict with loved ones, and feeling hopeless, anxious and/or depressed.
Lowering the risk
Plan ahead for exactly how much money you’re able to spend. Set a time limit before you start and stick to this time limit by setting an alarm or having someone pick you up at that time. Use only money you can afford to lose—that is, money you’ve set aside for entertainment purposes (not for bills or food). Only gamble socially. Understand your odds of winning. Keep very close track on how much time and money you are spending. Take frequent breaks. Be aware of your motivation for gambling—if you are feeling lonely, sad or anxious, remind yourself that gambling will not help these problems in the long term (and may worsen them).
When to seek help
Gambling is a problem if it negatively affects your life, or the life of someone you care about—such as the signs listed above. Treatment, including counselling, is available to Nova Scotians affected by gambling. Counselling can help people understand why they gamble, so they can stop, cut down, or change their gambling habits.
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Wellness Together CanadaWellness Together Canada
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Gambling Support NetworkGovernment of Nova Scotia
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Seniors Mental Health Services
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First Nations Services
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Community Support Service (Adults)
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Child and Adolescent Services
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