An organization which seeks to inform people about the dangers of problem gambling is travelling to casinos and bingo halls across the province to get its message across directly in the places people gamble.
“There’s nothing wrong with gambling, it’s a piece of entertainment that is readily accessible across the province, but we want to create an informed player, we want the people who are playing to know there are associated risks,” said Greg Eaton, team lead for the Know the Signs campaign, operated by a non-profit called the Responsible Gambling Council.
The campaign team was set up in the lobby of Grand River Raceway on Wednesday and Thursday. Eaton said they target locations like bingo halls and casinos to reach people where they gamble.
Eaton said an estimated 3.4 per cent of Ontarians have a severe gambling problem, which translates to just over 330,000 people provincially and about 20,000 people in the Guelph and Kitchener area. Approximately one in 10 people are negatively affected by someone else's problem gambling, according to the council's research.
The campaign seeks to inform players about the risks before problem gambling occurs, or to provide resources for people who need them.
“We are challenging people about what they can do to keep their gambling safe and keep it in perspective,” said Eaton. “We want to create an informed player and let people know there are associated risks.”
The Know the Signs campaign informs people who gamble to identify signs they may have a problem, including spending more money or time than they budgeted, hiding their gambling or lying about it.
“Guilt, anxiety and frustration are all key indicators that these people may be experiencing some difficulty,” said Eaton. “The other focus of the program is letting them know there are community support services across the province and within their community that they can connect with.”
“People experiencing extreme highs when they win and extreme lows when they lose can also be a key indicator,” he said.
The Know the Signs team had a booth set up in the casino lobby, asking people walking by to play a simple game of chance and answer trivia questions about common misconceptions about gambling.
“Some people have preconceived notions about how games work, we want to give them information so they can make informed decisions, keep it fun so it doesn’t become problematic," said Eaton.
The campaign is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the program is being welcomed in the casinos and bingo halls, said Eaton.
“That relationship is a healthy one,” said Eaton. “They are allowing us to be here to connect with their patrons.”
Eaton notes the campaign’s message is not an anti-gambling one, but instead centres around gambling responsibly.
“What we are saying is wherever you are gambling — and not just in casinos and bingo halls — there are going to be associated risks and we want people to be aware of them.”
Eaton said a responsible gambler will set limits on money and time spent in casinos, bingo halls and other establishments and stick to them.
“Money and time, that’s going to be different for everyone,” he said. “Have a budget, use only money you can afford to lose — that’s the cost of play for you. Set a money limit, set a time limit as well. View it as a form of entertainment. We never want people chasing those loses.”
Eaton recommends viewing gambling as a form of entertainment and suggests people not chase their loses.
“If you go to the casino and spend $100 — that’s your limit. When the $100 is gone, that was the cost of play, the cost of your entertainment for the evening. It would be no different than if you went to a movie — when it’s over and it was bad you don’t go back into another theatre and watch another movie,” said Eaton.