, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 123–138 | Cite as

Place, gender and the appeal of video lottery terminal gambling: unpacking a focus group study of Montreal youth

  • Dana Helene Wilson
  • Nancy A. Ross


Youth gambling has become an important public health issue in Canada and elsewhere owing to the known associations between gambling and delinquency, family dysfunction and suicide. Modern electronic and virtual gambling activities like video lottery terminals (VLTs) may have particular appeal to youth who have been raised in social environments that are increasingly dependent on information and communication technologies. The main objective of the study was to explore why youth gamble and what makes gambling activities like VLTs popular to youth in the places where youth live, study and play. The research is framed within a population health perspective that recognizes the role of social and physical environments in influencing health-related behaviours. Group discussions were conducted with youth to explore the popularity and appeal of gambling and VLTs, and how gambling fits into the daily routines of youth and the spaces they occupy. Methodologically, this research was conscious of responding to calls in the literature to analyze focus groups as an interactive group process rather a collection of individual responses, and to exercise analytic rigour by explicitly making the research team’s positionality and the data collection process transparent. Group discussions revealed gender differences in the appeal of particular gambling activities with young males being more likely to discuss poker, dice, sports-betting and online gambling as exciting social activities, while females described lottery and scratch (instant win) tickets as fun solitary activities. Substantive results point to the need for interventions to address social aspects of gambling that appeal, in particular, to young males potentially through increased provision of healthier alternatives to social engagement and greater attention to young people’s use of space.


Focus group interviews Gambling Health behaviours Health geography Population health Youth 



D. H. Wilson was supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The research project was supported by a grant from the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture. The authors are grateful to all members of the broader research team, the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University, and for the research assistance provided by Lucio De Martinis.


  1. Agar, M., & Macdonald, J. (1995). Focus groups and ethnography. Human Organization, 54(1), 78–86.Google Scholar
  2. Azmier, J., & Clements, M. (2001). Gambling in Canada 2001: An overview. Calgary, AB: Canada West Foundation.Google Scholar
  3. Bauer, K., Yang, Y., & Austin, S. (2004). “How can we stay healthy when you’re throwing all of this in front of us?” Findings from focus groups and interviews in middle schools on environmental influences on nutrition and physical activity. Health Education & Behavior, 31(1), 34–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baxter, J., & Eyles, J. (1997). Evaluating qualitative research in social geography: Establishing “rigour” in interview analysis. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 22(4), 505–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berg, B. (2001). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. Berg, B. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  7. Bloor, M., Frankland, J., Thomas, M., & Robson, K. (2001). Focus groups in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Burge, A., Pietrzak, R., Molina, C., & Petry, N. (2004). Age of gambling initiation and severity of gambling and health problems among older adult problem gamblers. Psychiatric Services, 55(12), 1437–1439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cameron, J. (2005). Qualitative research methods in human geography. In I. Hay (Ed.), Focussing on the focus group (pp. 83–101). New Yorks: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, C., & Smith, G. (1998). Canadian gambling: Trends and public policy issues. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 556(1), 22–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chatwin, J. (2004). Conversation analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 12(2–3), 131–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research-procedures, canons and evaluative criteria. Zeitschrift Fur Soziologie, 19(6), 418–427.Google Scholar
  13. Cortazzi, M. (1993). Narrative analysis. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cox, B., Yu, N., Afifi, T., & Ladouceur, R. (2005). A national survey of gambling problems in Canada. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(4), 213–217.Google Scholar
  15. Crabtree, B., Yanoshik, K., Miller, W., & O’Connor, P. (1993). Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art. In D. Morgan (Ed.), Selecting individual or group interviews (pp. 137–152). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research. Sage Publications, Inc: London.Google Scholar
  17. Derevensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2000). Adolescents with gambling problems: From research to treatment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16(2,3), 315–342.Google Scholar
  18. Derevensky, J., Gupta, R., & Cloppa, G. (1996). A developmental perspective of gambling behaviour in children and adolescents. Journal of Gambling Studies, 12(1), 49–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dickerson, M. (1993). Internal and external determinants of persistent gambling: Problems in generalising from one form of gambling to another. Journal of Gambling Studies, 9(3), 225–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Doiron, J., & Nicki, R. (2001). Epidemiology of problem gambling in Prince Edward Island: A Canadian microcosm? Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 46(5), 413–417.Google Scholar
  21. Elwood, S., & Martin, D. (2000). ‘Placing’ interviews: Locations and scales of power in qualitative research. Professional Geographer, 52(4), 649–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Felsher, J., Derevensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2003). Parental influences and social modeling of youth lottery participation. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13(5), 361–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fisher, S. (1999). A prevalence study of gambling and problem gambling in British adolescents. Addiction Research, 7(6), 509–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fontana, A., & Frey, J. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research. In N. Denzin & Y. Loncoln (Eds.), The interview: From structured questions to negotioated texts (Vol. 2, pp. 645–672). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  25. Frank, M., Lester, D., & Wexler, A. (1991). Suicidal behaviour among members of gamblers anonymous. Journal of Gambling Studies, 7(3), 249–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gilliland, J., & Ross, N. (2005). Opportunities for video lottery terminal gambling in Montreal: An environmental analysis. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96(1), 55–59.Google Scholar
  27. Goss, J., & Leinbach, T. (1996). Focus groups as alternative research practice. Area, 28(2), 115–123.Google Scholar
  28. Griffiths, M. (1995). Adolescent gambling. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Gupta, R., & Deverensky, J. (1998). Adolescent gambling behaviour: A prevalence study and examination of the correlates associated with problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16(2/3), 315–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hardoon, K., & Derevensky, J. (2001). Social influences involved in children’s gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 17(3), 191–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoggart, K., Loretta, L., Davies, A. (2002). Method and methodology in human geography. Researching Human Geography (London: Arnold) pp. 1-35.Google Scholar
  32. Hyde, A., Howlett, E., Brady, D., & Drennan, J. (2005). The focus group method: Insights from focus group interviews on sexual health with adolescents. Social Science and Medicine, 61(12), 2588–2599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. ISI Web of Science. (2007). ISI Web of Knowledge. Copyright © 2007 The Thomson Corporation. Accessed at:
  34. Jacobs, D. (2004). Gambling problems in youth, theoretical and applied perspectives. In J. Derevensky & R. Gupta (Eds.), Youth gambling in North America: Long-term trends and future prospects (pp. 1–24). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.Google Scholar
  35. Kamberelis, G., & Dimitriadis, G. (2005). The Sage handbook of qualitative research. In K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Focus groups: Strategic articulations of pedagogy, politics and inquiry (Vol. 3, pp. 887–907). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  36. Kitzinger, J. (1995). Qualitative research–introducing focus groups. British Medical Journal, 311(7000), 299–302.Google Scholar
  37. Krueger, R. (1994). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publishing.Google Scholar
  38. Krueger, R., & Casey, M. (2000). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (3rd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  39. Larson, R. (2002). Globalization, societal change, and new technologies: What they mean for the future of adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 12(1), 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Loto-Quebec. (2004). Loto-Quebec (2004)-2007 Development Plan: Assuring a Balance Between Business Mission and Social Responsibility. May (2004): Loto-Quebec. Accessed at:
  41. Loto-Quebec. (2008). La Societe des Loteries Video du Quebec, Inc: Retailers. June 2008 : Loto-Quebec. Accessed at :
  42. MacDonald, M., McMullan, D., & Perrier, J. (2004). Gambling households in Canada. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(3), 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McGregor, A. (2004). Doing groups: Situating knowledge and creating stories. Australian Geographer, 35(2), 141–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McMillen, J. (1996). Gambling cultures. In J. McMillen (Ed.), Understanding gambling: History, concepts and theories. Routledge: London.Google Scholar
  45. Messerlian, C., Derevensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2005). Youth gambling problems: A public health perspective. Health Promotion International, 20(1), 69–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Michaud, P. (2006). Adolescents and risks: Why not change our paradigm? Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(5), 481–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., Perry, C., & Casey, M. (1999). Factors influencing food choices of adolescents: Findings from focus-group discussions with adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(8), 929–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Poulin, C. (2000). Problem gambling among adolescent students in the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16(1), 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pratt, G. (2002). Feminist geography in practice: Research and methods. In P. Moss (Ed.), Studying immigrants in focus groups. Blackwell: London & New York.Google Scholar
  50. Reed, J., & Payton, V. (1997). Focus groups: Issues of analysis and interpretation. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 26(4), 765–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shaffer, H., & Korn, D. (2002). Gambling and related mental disorders: A public health analysis. Annual Review of Public Health, 23, 171–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shaffer, H., Hall, M., & Vander Bilt, J. (1999). Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A research synthesis. American Journal of Public Health, 89(3), 1369–1376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stewart, D., & Shamdasani, P. (1992). Focus groups: Theory and practice. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  54. Stinchfield, R., & Winters, K. (1998). Gambling and problem gambling among youths. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 556(1), 172–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Story, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & French, S. (2002). Individual and environmental influences on adolescent eating behaviors. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 102(3), S40–S51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Turner, N., & Horbay, R. (2004). How do slot machines and other electronic gambling machines actually work? Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues: egambling, Issue 11.Google Scholar
  57. United Nations. (2005). WorldYOUTHReport (2005): Young people today, and in 2015. United Nations: Department of Economic and Social Affairs.Google Scholar
  58. Vitaro, F., Wanner, B., Ladouceur, R., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. (2004). Trajectories of gambling during adolescence. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(1), 47–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson, D., Gilliland, J., Ross, N., Derevensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2006). Video lottery terminal access and gambling among high school students in Montréal. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 97(3), 202–206.Google Scholar
  60. Winters, K., Stinchfield, R., & Botzet, A. (2002). A prospective study of youth gambling behaviors. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16(1), 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wynne, H., Smith, G., & Jacobs, D. (1996). Adolescent gambling and problem gambling in Alberta: Final report. Edmonton: Alberta Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canadian Research Institute of Social PolicyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityWest MontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations