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Indigenous Gambling and Problem Gambling in Canada


The present study provides a profile of Canadian Indigenous gambling and problem gambling using the 2018 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) (n = 23,952 adults; 1,324 Indigenous) and an online panel survey of 10,199 gamblers (n = 589 Indigenous). The relative popularity of different types of gambling was similar between Indigenous and non-Indigenous samples. However, there was higher Indigenous participation in electronic gambling machines (EGMs), bingo, instant lotteries, overall gambling and a higher rate of problem gambling (2.0% versus 0.5%). Variables predictive of Indigenous problem gambling were EGM participation, gambling fallacies, having a mental or substance use disorder, sports betting, and male gender. Compared to non-Indigenous problem gamblers, Indigenous problem gamblers had higher substance use and lower impulsivity. In general, variables predictive of Indigenous problem gambling were the same ones predictive of problem gambling in all populations, with elevated Indigenous problem gambling rates primarily being due to elevated rates of these generic risk factors. Many of these risk factors are modifiable. Particular consideration should be given to reducing the disproportionate concentration of EGMs in geographic areas having the highest concentration of Indigenous people and ameliorating the disadvantageous social conditions in this population that are conducive to mental health and substance use problems.

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  1. As part of the ANP the Canadian prevalence rates of gambling and problem gambling in 2018 and how these rates have changed since 2002 have recently been reported by Williams et al., (2020) as have the predictors of problem gambling in Canada in 2018 (Williams et al., 2021).

  2. Statistics Canada has access to cell phone and landline numbers of most Canadians.

  3. The three Canadian territories of Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon represent only 0.32% of the Canadian population.

  4. In 2016, a total of 1,673,785 Canadians self-reported an Indigenous identity, representing 4.9% of the Canadian population, up from 2.8% in 1996 (Statistics Canada, 2017). Within this group, 58.4% identified as First Nations (76.2% with Treaty Indian status), 35.1% as Métis (mixed European and Indigenous ancestry), 3.9% as Inuit, and 2.7% reported being of mixed or other identity. There are approximately 630 First Nations bands in Canada and 70 different Indigenous languages (Statistics Canada, 2017). The majority of Indigenous people reside in Ontario (22.4%), the four western provinces of British Columbia (16.2%), Alberta (15.5%), Manitoba (13.3%), Saskatchewan (10.5%), and Quebec (10.9%). However, they only constitute the majority of the population in the territories of Nunavut (85.9%) and the Northwest Territories (50.2%). In 2011, 62.4% of First Nations people lived off First Nation reserves. [Note: Inuit and Métis normally do not live on First Nation reserves, although many reside in communities with self-government agreements].

  5. Research shows that a mildly restrictive frequency threshold of gambling once a month or more on any type of gambling appears optimal in excluding some false positives while not inadvertently excluding people with genuine gambling-related harm (Stone et al., 2015; Williams & Volberg, 2009, 2012).

  6. The traditional 8 + PGSI demarcation of problem gambling has good correspondence to clinically assessed people with gambling problems in treatment, but poor correspondence to clinically assessed people with gambling problems in the general population (Ferris & Wynne, 1999, p.39; Ladouceur et al., 2005; Williams & Volberg, 2014). One of the central reasons for this is because the PGSI was normed on a small group of treatment-seeking people with gambling problems who tend to have a more pervasive and severe set of problems compared to people with gambling-related problems in the general population, the large majority of whom have never sought treatment. Research shows that reducing this threshold to 5 + successfully captures most of the population-based problem gamblers (Williams & Volberg, 2014).

  7. There are minor operational differences between slot machines and VLTs in Canada. The main difference has to do with their location with slot machines being located in dedicated gambling venues (casinos, bingo halls, horserace tracks), whereas VLTs are distributed more widely outside of dedicated gambling venues, typically in age-restricted bars/lounges.

  8. Either in the form of slot machines in First Nation casinos (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick) and/or being a VLT site holder (Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia).

  9. These figures were derived primarily from the 2017/2018 annual report of each of the provincial gambling operators supplemented by 2018/2019 data from (Quebec slots), and email communication from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (Aug 21, 2020), Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (Aug 21, 2020), Murray Marshall, Kahnewa:ke Gaming Commission (Aug 25, 2020), and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (Sep 14, 2020) regarding First Nation EGMs.

  10. This is with an obtained sample of 761 weighted to match the population. Nunavut was the only jurisdiction in Canada to administer a Gambling Module in the 2015 and 2016 CCHS. No province or territory administered a Gambling Module in 2017.


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We thank the Canadian Consortium for Gambling Research (CCGR) for funding the development and inclusion of the Gambling Module in the CCHS. Special thanks also go to Dr. Seamus O’Shea, Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI) Board Chair, and Glenda Wong, AGRI Executive Director, for their foresight in helping to formulate and develop the AGRI National Project and in facilitating its successful implementation. The present study is part of a comprehensive national study of gambling jointly funded by the CCGR, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO), and AGRI. Details can be contained on our website: As mentioned, the Gambling Module was specifically funded by CCGR. GREO exclusively contributed to the funding of the Project Manager to clean ANP data for eventual housing with GREO to facilitate public access for other researchers.

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Correspondence to Robert J. Williams.

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Ethical approval for this study was received from the University of Lethbridge Human Subjects.Review Committee (ID#: 2018–063).

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Williams, R.J., Belanger, Y.D., Leonard, C.A. et al. Indigenous Gambling and Problem Gambling in Canada. J Gambl Stud 38, 67–85 (2022).

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  • Gambling
  • Problem gambling
  • Indigenous
  • Canada