New plan provides roadmap for addressing health risks of gambling

February 3, 2015

VANCOUVER – The B.C. government is stepping up its efforts to address public-health risks of gambling with a new plan that outlines how the Province and B.C. Lottery Corporation will work to address problem gambling and improve programs and services aimed at promoting responsible gambling.

The Plan for Public Health and Gambling, released today, contains 21 commitments focused on four main themes: problem gambling prevention among youth, encouraging responsible gambling, problem gambling treatment, and research.

The plan takes into consideration a range of research on the of impacts of gambling on individuals and communities in B.C., including the 2014 Problem Gambling Prevalence Study, the provincial health officer’s report on gambling, online gambling research and other relevant data on gaming, health and education.

The key elements of the plan include:

  • Improving the delivery of problem gambling prevention programs for youth with an increased focus on problem solving, critical thinking and building resilience.
  • Adding customized responsible gambling messaging on, B.C. Lottery Corporation’s on-line gaming portal.
  • Expanding the successful GameSense Advisor model to community gaming centres, in addition to what is already in place in casinos.
  • Increasing co-operation between the ministries of Finance and Health to improve continuity of care for clients who face multiple, related problems such as gambling, substance abuse and mental-health issues.
  • Investing in research to understand problem gambling among online players and to determine the impact of reducing high-risk features on electronic gaming machines.
  • Government and BCLC will monitor the progress and achievements of the Centre for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia. Funding of $2 million over five years has been provided for the centre.

The Plan for Public Health and Gambling was developed by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with the Ministries of Health and Education and the B.C. Lottery Corporation. BCLC has agreed to work closely with government to implement action items involving the corporation.


Finance Minister Michael de Jong −
“The B.C. government is already recognized as a leader in responsible gambling education and the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. The commitments in this plan will strengthen and enhance our programs, support British Columbians with gambling problems, and help further reduce the rate of problem gambling in B.C.”

Health Minister Terry Lake −
“The research commitments in this plan will shed new light on the health impacts of electronic gaming machines, on-line gambling and the connection between problem gambling, substance abuse and mental health. We can use that information to improve our prevention and treatment programs.”

Education Minister Peter Fassbender −
“Linking responsible gambling education materials to the province’s new physical and health education curriculum is one of several commitments in this plan that will improve the delivery of responsible gambling programs aimed at youth.”

Quick Facts:

In 2014, there were 125,000 problems gamblers (about 3.3% of the population). In 2008, 159,000 people were classified as problem gamblers (about 4.6% of the population).

  • Over one-third (36.4%) of at-risk/problem gamblers reported that they had experienced a mental-health issue. 13.5% of non-problem gamblers reported experiencing a mental-health issue.
  • Although young adults 18 to 24 years of age were the least likely age group to gamble, they were most likely to experience problem gambling relative to other age groups. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, 7.3% were classified as problem gamblers, and 18.4% were classified as at-risk/problem gamblers.
  • 34.7% of at-risk/problem gamblers reported using drugs or alcohol while gambling compared to 19.2% of non-problem gamblers.
  • At-risk problem gamblers were significantly more likely than non-problem gamblers to use electronic gaming machines outside of a gaming facility (6.4% vs. 2.7%).
  • The percentage of respondents who self-reported participation in Internet gambling has been steadily on the rise since it was first reported in 2002 (from 2% to 4%).

Learn More:

The complete Plan for Public Health and Gaming and the 2014 Problem Gambling Prevalence Study are available at:

More information about responsible and problem gambling in B.C. can be found at:

Media Contact:

Jamie Edwardson
Communications Director
Ministry of Finance
250 356-2821


Plan for Public Health and Gambling − 21 Commitments

Problem Gambling Prevention for Youth and Young Adults

  • The provincial Responsible & Problem Gambling program will link with the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research and other researchers to work towards linking problem gambling education with broader issues of substance use, including preventing and addressing dependence and fostering positive mental health and social and personal responsibility.
  • Within available resources, the provincial Responsible and Problem Gambling Program is shifting its emphasis within the program to give students the tools to make better decisions.
  • The Ministry of Education will share the findings of the PHO Report on Gambling as well as current research related to youth gambling with the Physical and Health Education curriculum development teams and other relevant specialist associations such as school counsellors.
  • Links to responsible gambling education materials will be added to the new Physical and Health Education curriculum as well as to the Healthy Schools BC website and promoted in the Healthy Schools BC newsletter.
  • The ministries of Education, Finance, and Health will work together to raise awareness about the need for problem gambling education and its links with broader issues of risk-taking behaviour, and promote related education materials.

Promoting Healthy Choices

  • BCLC is working with other gambling jurisdictions in Canada on constructive approaches to communicating ‘odds’ and ‘return to player’ on Electronic Gaming Machine screens to dispel myths about control and ability to win.
  • Beginning in 2015, BCLC will offer new time and money budgeting tools to its Encore Rewards members. Similarly, enhanced tools have been developed for implementation on
  • BCLC has conducted its third review of the Appropriate Response Training program for gaming facility staff, and in 2015, will be incorporating new approaches to problem gambling identification and response as recommended by the Responsible Gambling Council.
  • BCLC will incorporate mandatory staff training about the cognitive effects of alcohol and the resulting increase in impulse behaviour.
  • GPEB and BCLC plan to implement a GameSense Advisor presence in community gaming centres.
  • BCLC is implementing a new Appropriate Response Training course that is specific to customer telephone support. It includes training on how to assess and respond to callers who may be experiencing difficulty with their gambling, details on available resources, procedures for handling third party concerns, and escalation guidelines.
  • BCLC will implement customized responsible gambling messaging to account holders as well as BCLC Encore members.
  • BCLC will engage an international team of researchers in a longitudinal research project to evaluate the impact of customized messaging on player behaviour.
  • BCLC has worked with the Responsible Gambling Council in developing and implementing their new Responsible Gambling Check accreditation program for online gaming. In anticipation of being the first online gambling platform to officially participate in this program, BCLC has initiated a number of changes in its approach to online responsible gambling, including better documentation of processes, policy reviews, and customer support training. The Responsible Gambling Council is auditing
  • GPEB will update its Responsible Gambling Standards to include online gambling on These standards must be followed by BCLC and all gaming service providers in British Columbia.

Problem Gambling Support and Treatment Services

  • The Ministry of Finance will partner with the Ministry of Health to further explore problematic gambling screening and collaborative care planning for clients with co-occurring issues with the goal of improving the overall continuity of care.

Responsible and Problem Gambling Policy and Research

  • The ministries of Health and Finance, with BCLC, will be responsible for maintaining a working group with stakeholders and the Ministry of Education, to continue a dialogue regarding policy and legislative decisions that involve expansion of gambling, issues related to the public-health risks of gambling, and alignment of policies and practices.
  • The provincial government will develop a standardized package of information outlining the public-health risks of gambling. It will be offered to municipalities to assist decision makers in their analysis of gaming expansion and ensure that they have a full understanding of the risks and benefits of expanding gambling in their communities. The package will include information about problem gambling prevalence, availability of alcohol, high-risk games, and revenue generated from problem gamblers.
  • Government and BCLC will monitor the progress and achievements of the Centre for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia in 2017.
  • GPEB and BCLC will undertake research to determine the impacts of reducing or minimizing higher risk features of Electronic Gaming Machines.
  • GPEB and BCLC will undertake research to estimate online gambling prevalence and problem gambling prevalence among online players in British Columbia.


Problem gambling declining in B.C., study finds

A new study of gambling participation and problem gambling among adults in B.C. indicates the province has fewer problem gamblers than it had seven years ago, a decline that reflects current trends across Canada and elsewhere in the world.

The 2014 Problem Gambling Prevalence Study, released Feb 3, 2015, found that the number of problem gamblers dropped to 3.3% of the population in 2014 from 4.6% of the population in 2008, a decline of 28%. An estimated 125,000 people were defined as problem gamblers in the 2014 study, compared to about 159,000 people in 2008.

The term “problem gamblers” refers to all moderate-risk and high-risk gamblers as defined by the Canadian Problem Gambling Index. Moderate risk gamblers are those who experience some negative consequences as a result of gambling, while high-risk gamblers are individuals who report significant negative consequences and may experience a loss of control.

An additional 7.9% of adults in B.C. are considered to be at low-risk for problem gambling, meaning they experience few or no negative consequences as a result of gambling. This brings the total percentage of the population that is at risk for problem gambling to 11.2%. In 2008, the total percentage of the population deemed to be at risk for problem gambling was 13.3%.

An estimated 88.8% of the population are non-problem gamblers or do not gamble at all, compared to 86.7% seven years ago, the study found. Non-gamblers are defined as individuals who did not gamble in the 12 months prior to being surveyed.

The 2014 study included telephone and online sampling, resulting in a total of 3,058 completed surveys, with a minimum of 600 completions in each of B.C.’s health regions. An estimated 72.5% of adult British Columbians participated in at least one gambling activity in the past 12 months, a slight decline from the 73 per cent reported in 2008.

The findings of the 2014 Problem Gambling Prevalence Study will help guide improvements to provincial prevention, education and treatment programs. This is the fifth study of its kind in B.C since 1993.

The B.C. government offers free counselling and treatment services throughout the province to individuals and families seeking help with problem gambling. The Problem Gambling Help Line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide British Columbians with information, crisis counselling and referral services in several languages.

For the 2014 Problem Gambling Prevalence Study:


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