With the debut of single-game wagering in Canada in 2021 and the launch of a commercial sports betting market in Ontario less than a year afterwards, there are more opportunities to gamble in Canada than ever before. Unfortunately, with more options for betting, there is a much deeper need for responsible gambling resources.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a gambling problem in Canada – be it a habit going overboard or full-blown gambling addiction – this page is for you. Below is a comprehensive guide about what resources you have available to you, regardless of the province in which you are. Additionally, we have some tips about how to spot a problem, both in yourself or in someone near you.
Responsible gambling resources by province
Responsible gambling efforts are assisted and monitored country-wide in Canada by the Responsible Gambling Council. The RGC has helped Canadians find help and guidance for gambling problems for decades, and it is a fine resource for a centralized approach to responsible gambling.
However, the most effective resources for most Canadians who need assistance with problem gambling are the individual responsible gambling outlets in each province. Below are the relevant details for several provinces. As more provincial entities expand their gaming profiles, we will add their responsible gambling resources.
<jump links to each province>
Alberta’s gambling is overseen by the AGLC – Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis. The AGLC and its gaming wing, Play Alberta, have elected to partner with GameSense for the majority of their responsible gambling efforts. Here are the links to all the resources available in Alberta:
- GameSense Alberta
- AHS Addiction Helpline
- Gamblers Anonymous
- AGLC self-exclusion program
- Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis
British Columbia’s gambling activities are managed by its provincial lottery, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). Unsurprisingly, the BCLC also spearheads the province’s efforts toward responsible gambling goals.
The BCLC approaches this endeavour in two different ways. First, it offers its own connections to Gambling Support BC, a program which offers support options such as a helpline and free counselling services. The BCLC also partners with GameSense – in particular, the regulator emphasizes GameSense’s GameBreak program, which offers self-exclusion to British Columbians. Here are the best places to look for help in British Columbia:
- Gambling Support BC
- Gamblers Anonymous
- GameBreak (self-exclusion)
- British Columbia Lottery Corporation
Manitoba gambling has two regulatory agencies that serve distinct purposes. Although both of them have resources for responsible gambling, they each approach the matter in their own way.
The Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) funnels most of its responsible gambling efforts through its Know My Limits campaign, which encourages gamblers to think about and set limits on their gambling before they begin play. Meanwhile, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (which oversees PlayNow and the sports betting activities in the province) wants gamblers to engage in Informed Gambling. Along with tips and advice, MBLL provides support at two retail locations and keeps a self-exclusion list for gamblers to use.
- Know My Limits
- Informed Gambling
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba
- Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries
New Brunswick relies upon its own regulator, the New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation (NBLGC), to manage its responsible gambling activities in the province. However, the province is in the somewhat-unique position where it has another layer of support and resources overlaying its own efforts.
The NBLGC is also one of four shareholders of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which administers the lotteries and (now) sports betting for its shareholding provinces. The ALC maintains its own responsible gambling resources, including an exclusion list, and can provide additional support where the NBLGC is a bit out of its jurisdiction.
- Responsible gaming links directly through NBLGC
- Gamblers Anonymous
- New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation
- Atlantic Lottery Corporation
Responsible gambling efforts in Ontario take an unusually heavy-handed approach to the mandates placed upon operators in the province. The provincial regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), has essentially banned sports betting and other gambling companies from any kind of advertising that might influence vulnerable populations, including minors and those struggling with gambling problems.
The primary thrusts of these restrictions fall upon two entities. The first is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), which manages the provincial lottery and its associated sportsbook. The other entity affected strongly by these restrictions is iGaming Ontario (IGO), which is a subsidiary of AGCO that manages the iGaming (both sports and casino) taking place in Ontario.
Needless to say, there are plenty of responsible gambling resources available to Ontarians. Here are some of the best tools at your disposal:
- Play Smart
- IGO Responsible Gambling
- Gamblers Anonymous
- MyPlayBreak (self exclusion)
- Connex Ontario
- Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
What is responsible gambling?
Though you now have information about the responsible gambling resources at your disposal across the country, you may still be wondering what “responsible gambling” actually is. In short, responsible gambling is a series of behaviours and actions that you take to ensure that your gambling remains a fun and healthy endeavour.
Gambling that goes too far, therefore, moves into the realm of “problem gambling.” Responsible gambling resources are meant to combat both problem gambling and its more severe cousin, gambling addiction. Although these two terms do have separate definitions, there is plenty of overlap and blur between the two.
Now, if you’re wondering if you have a gambling problem, there are plenty of online quizzes that you can take. However, the defining characteristic of every problem gambler is that they cannot stop playing even if they want to do so.
Symptoms of problem gambling
Problem gambling and gambling addictions are particularly insidious problems because they don’t ordinarily take a physical toll on their sufferers. Thus, they can elude detection from both the gambler and their families for much longer periods of time, particularly if the gambler is well-funded through other means.
Eventually, every problem gambler begins displaying certain symptoms and indications that all is not right with their gambling. Here are some of those warning signs:
- Unexplained financial issues – Although not all problem gamblers overspend their budgets, many of them dip into funds earmarked for necessities or other important expenditures. If you notice that you don’t have necessary money in your bank account or that of a family member, there may be an issue.
- Absences at important events – Gambling takes time, and many compulsive gamblers have a difficult time pulling them away from their games of choice – particularly if they feel as though they are on a hot streak or that the game is about to shift in their favour. Even though online gambling has eliminated some of the time factor, it’s still concerning if you are missing important business or social events in order to gamble.
- Preoccupation with gambling – There are plenty of people who like to gamble frequently, and they like to talk about gambling fairly often. However, if you notice that you or someone you love revolves their entire life around gambling, both in thought and deed, then it might be a concern.
- Dishonesty or deception – Whether a trip to a gambling location ends with a win or a loss, a gambler should be able to be honest about the result. If you find yourself being evasive or obfuscating the truth about your time in a casino, it’s a red flag. Similarly, if you find that someone is lying about where they are getting the money to gamble or where they were spending their time – in a gambling house versus a more benign location – it’s the sign that something isn’t right.
- Constant gambling-focused plans – This one dovetails with a preoccupation with gambling. If any vacation or even a night on the town always includes proximity to and plans to visit a gambling location, there may be a problem. If you find yourself insisting that any leisure plans involve gaming, it might be time to take a step back.
- Overruns on planned stops – The last sign that a problem may be afoot is almost literally the definition of problem gambling. If you or someone in your life is frequently spending more money than they planned to spend on gambling or gambling for longer periods of time than you/they promised, it might mean something is wrong. Running over, especially on time, is not a worry if it happens once or twice, but if it’s a pattern, you should be hearing warning sirens in your head.
Now, to be clear, we are not medical professionals or qualified to give you a diagnosis. However, if you are recognizing yourself or someone in your life in this list, it might be time to make use of the appropriate resources listed above.
The bottom line
Problem gambling destroys millions of lives each year. The sad fact is that a statistically significant number of gamblers in Canada are destined to gamble to an unhealthy degree. If you or someone you love seems to fall into that category, don’t wait. Counsellors are available 24 hours a day in most areas in the country. Every minute you save is a minute not wasted at a gambling location, and every dollar that remains in your bank account is yours to keep.