Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 537–546 | Cite as

Prevalence of Gambling Problems Among the Clients of a Toronto Homeless Shelter

  • Flora I. MathesonEmail author
  • Kimberly Devotta
  • Aklilu Wendaferew
  • Cheryl Pedersen
Original Paper


Few studies have examined the prevalence of problem and pathological gambling among clients of homeless service agencies. The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of problem gambling among these clients. We collected primary data on gambling using the NORC diagnostic screen for disorders. Using a modified time-location recruitment approach 264 clients of a community homeless service agency were screened for lifetime gambling problems. Descriptive statistics were produced using SPSSX. The prevalence of lifetime problem gambling was 10 % and that of pathological gambling was 25 % in this sample. The prevalence of lifetime problem and pathological gambling was alarmingly high relative to the general population lifetime prevalence. Better insight into interventions for gambling that might reduce risk of homelessness will help service agencies gauge the needs of their clients and to implement change to service delivery and screening practices.


Gambling Homelessness Community services NODS NODS-CLiP Shelter 



The research team is indebted to the staff and clients at the Good Shepherd Centre. The clients who gave their time improved our understanding of the extent to which gambling affects their lives. The Good Shepherd staff opened their doors and their hearts to us; as a result we have a strong partnership with a community agency that provides essential services for homeless men. Their expert advice on their clients and on how best to reach out to them greatly informed our recruitment strategy and research design and facilitated data collection. The Centre for Research on Inner City Health (CRICH) is part of the Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital. This work was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) Applied Health Research Questions initiative. The opinions, results and conclusions reported in this paper are those of the authors and are independent from the funding sources. No endorsement by Ontario MOHLTC is intended or should be inferred.

Conflicts of interests

The authors have no interests to disclose.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Antonetti, E., & Horn, M. (2001). Gambling the home away: A study of the impact of gambling on homelessness. South Melbourne, Victoria: Hanover Welfare Services.Google Scholar
  3. Begin, P., Casavant, L., & Chenier, N. M. (1999). Homelessness. (Rep. No. PRB 99-1E). Ottawa, Canada: Political and Social Affairs Division & Jean Dupuis, Economics Division.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, S., & Coventry, L. (1997). Queen of hearts: The needs of women with gambling problems. Melbourne, VIC: Financial & Consumer Rights Council.Google Scholar
  5. Byrne, D. S. (1999). Social exclusion. Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Crane, M., Byrne, K., Fu, R., Lipmann, B., Mirabelli, F., Rota-Bartelink, A. et al. (2005). The causes of homelessness in later life: Findings from a 3-nation study. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60(3), S152–S159.Google Scholar
  7. De Boni, R., Nascimento Silva, P. L. D., Bastos, F. I., Pechansky, F., & Vasconcellos, M. T. L. D. (2012). Reaching the hard-to-reach: A probability sampling method for assessing prevalence of driving under the influence after drinking in alcohol outlets. PLoS ONE, 7, e34104.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Echenberg, H., & Jensen, H. (2008). Defining and enumerating homelessness in Canada. Ottawa, Canada: Library of Canada.Google Scholar
  9. Edens, E. L., Kasprow, W., Tsai, J., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2011). Association of substance use and VA service-connected disability benefits with risk of homelessness among veterans. The American Journal on Addictions, 20(5), 412–419.Google Scholar
  10. Flateau, P., Conroy, E., Clear, A., & Burns, L. (2010). The integration of homelessness, mental health and drug and alcohol services in Australia. Sydney: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).Google Scholar
  11. Gaetz, S., Donaldson, J., Richter, T., & Gulliver, T. (2013). The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 (Rep. No. Homeless Hub Paper #4). Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gattis, M., & Cunningham-Williams, R. (2011). Housing stability and problem gambling: Is there a relationship? Journal of Social Service Research, 37, 490–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hodgins, D. C. (2004). Using the NORC DSM screen for gambling problems as an outcome measure for pathological gambling: Psychometric evaluation. Addictive Behaviors, 29, 1685–1690.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Holdsworth, L., Tiyce, M., & Hing, N. (2012). Exploring the relationship between problem gambling and homelessness: Becoming and being homeless. Gambling Research: Journal of the National Association for Gambling Studies (Australia), 23(2), 39–54.Google Scholar
  15. HRSDC (2008). Understanding homelessness. Human Resources and Social Development Canada.Google Scholar
  16. Hwang, S. W. (1999). Housing and population health. Toronto: Centre for Applied Social Research, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  17. International Union of Gospel Missions (1998). Nationwide survey: Nearly one in five at rescue missions say gambling a factor in their homelessness.Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, G., Gronda, H., & Coutts, S. (2008). On the outside: Pathways in and out of homelessness. Australian Scholarly Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. Kessler, R., Hwang, I., LaBrie, R., Petukhova, M., Sampson, N., Winters, et al. (2008). DSM-IV pathological gambling in the national comorbidity survey replication. Psychological Medicine, 38, 1351–1360.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Korn, D. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (1999). Gambling and the health of the public: Adopting a public health perspective. Journal of Gambling Studies, 15, 289–365.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Laird, G. (2007). Shelter—homelessness in a growth economy: The twenty-first Century Paradox. Calgary, Alberta: Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.Google Scholar
  22. Lepage, C., Ladouceur, R., & Jacques, C. (2000). Prevalence of problem gambling among community service users. Community Mental Health Journal, 36, 597–601.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lesieur, H. (1994). Epidemiological surveys of pathological gambling: Critique and suggestions for modification. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10, 385–398.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. MacKellar, D., Valleroy, L., Karon, J., Lemp, G., & Janssen, R. (1996). The young men’s survey: Methods for estimating HIV seroprevalence and risk factors among young men who have sex with men. Public Health Reports, 111(Suppl 1), 138–144.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Majer, J. M., Angulo, R. S., Aase, D. M., & Jason, L. A. (2011). Gambling behaviors among Oxford house residents: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Social Service Research, 37, 422–427.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marsden, A. (2012). Money, meaning and gambling: A qualitative study of the gambling experiences of some homeless people in inner Sydney. Darlinghurst, NSW: Oasis Youth Support Network: The Salvation Army.Google Scholar
  27. Matheson, F. I., Ferentzy, P., & Skinner, W. (2012). Illicit drug abuse and problem gambling: A Toronto pilot study. Guelph, Ontario: Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre.Google Scholar
  28. Muhib, F. B., Lin, L. S., Stueve, A., Miller, R. L., Ford, W. L., Johnson, W. D., et al. (2001). A venue-based method for sampling hard-to-reach populations. Public Health Reports, 116(Suppl 1), 216–222.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Neal, P., Delfabbro, P., & O’Neil, M. (2005). Problem gambling and harm: Towards a national definition. Melbourne, VIC.: State of Victoria, Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  30. Nower, L., Eyrich, K., Pollino, D. E., & North, C. S. (2008). Problem gambling and homelessness: Prevalence of mental health problems and patterns of substance use. Washington, DC: Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Social Work and Research.Google Scholar
  31. Petry, N. M., Stinson, F. S., & Grant, B. F. (2005). Comorbidity of DSM-IV pathological gambling and other psychiatric disorders: Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66, 564–574.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pleace, N. (1998). Single homelessness as social exclusion: The unique and the extreme. Social Policy & Administration, 32, 46–59.Google Scholar
  33. Pye, S. (2012). The homeless individuals and families information system (HIFIS) initiative: Using information and communication technologies to build knowledge and understanding on homelessness. Gatineau, Quebec: National Secretariat on Homelessness.Google Scholar
  34. Rogers, N., Button, E., & Hume, A. (2005). Safe as houses: An exploration of the link between gambling and homelessness. Adelaide: Government of South Australia: The Department for Families and Communities.Google Scholar
  35. Rota-Bartelink, A., & Lipmann, B. (2007). Causes of homelessness among older people in Melbourne, Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 31, 252–258.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shaffer, H. J., Freed, C. R., & Healea, D. (2002). Gambling disorders among homeless persons with substance abuse disorders seeking treatment at a community center. Psychiatric Services, 53, 1112–1117.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shaffer, H. J., Hall, M. N., & Vander, B. J. (1999). Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A research synthesis. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1369–1376.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Toce-Gerstein, M., Gerstein, D., & Volberg, R. (2009). The NODS-CLiP: A rapid screen for adult pathological and problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 25, 541–555.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. van Laere, I. R., de Wit, M. A., & Klazinga, N. S. (2009). Pathways into homelessness: Recently homeless adults problems and service use before and after becoming homeless in Amsterdam. BMC Public Health, 9, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Warnes, A., & Crane, M. (2006). The causes of homelessness among older people in England. Housing Studies, 21, 401–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wickwire, E. M., Burke, R. S., Brown, S. A., Parker, J. D., & May, R. K. (2008). Psychometric evaluation of the national opinion research center DSM-IV screen for gambling problems (NODS). American Journal on Addictions, 17, 392–395.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Flora I. Matheson
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  • Kimberly Devotta
    • 1
  • Aklilu Wendaferew
    • 2
  • Cheryl Pedersen
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Keenan Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge InstituteSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Good Shepherd MinistriesTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Institute for Clinical Evaluative SciencesTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Centre for Research on Inner City HealthSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations