What is gambling?

Gambling is when you bet money or valuables to win something of greater value, but you don’t know if you are going to win or lose. It’s a game of chance.

If you gamble, hope to win but expect to lose. Don't chase a loss!

If you choose to gamble, be informed.

  • Over 1/3 (34%) of Grade 7 to 12 students in Ottawa said they gambled for money at least once in the past year.
  • 10% stated that they have gambled $50 or more at one time at least once in the past year.

You are gambling if you:

  • Bet money on the outcome of a TV show
  • Buy lottery tickets
  • Play poker for money
  • Bet on sports scores
  • Bet money on cards or dice with family and friends
  • Play slot machines
  • Buy raffle tickets or 50/50 tickets
  • Play casino games online
  • Buy scratch and win cards

The most frequent forms of gambling reported by students in Ottawa are:

  • Dares (14%)
  • Online poker (8%) and
  • Other forms such as cards, sports betting, games of skill, and lottery ranged from 6-7% percent each.

Why do people gamble? (back to top)

  • For entertainment
  • Thrill and excitement
  • Escape everyday life
  • To win money or win back money lost
  • Competing to gain respect from others
  • Feel empowered
  • Support a charity (bingo, 50/50)

When gaming becomes game-bling (back to top)

With advances in technology, the lines between gaming and online gambling are blurred. Gaming involves skills and gambling involves chance. When both of them are done together, you may not be able to tell what is chance and what is a skill.

What is gaming? 

  • Playing video games

What is gambling?

  • The payment of something is required to play a game
  • The outcome of the game is based on chance, not skill
  • The prize has a real-world value that can be exchanged for cash

The risks are greater if you gamble online.

9% of Ontario youth reported gambling online. 
Here is why youth who gamble online can experience more problems than youth who gamble offline.

  • You can gamble anytime and anywhere from your smartphone or computer
  • Many gambling websites do not have a guarantee of fair practices
  • You don’t see your money disappear using online payments
  • You can gamble at a faster pace online
  • You can easily lose track of time and money
  • Websites will track every activity you do and will use targeted advertising pop-ups like special offer, promo code, bonus, only available now, etc.

Myths: True or False? (back to top)

1. If I am good at videogames, I’m sure I will be good at online gambling games.

False: Videogames includes skills, online gambling games involves chance. There is no way to know if you will win or lose, because the nature of gambling is mainly based on chance, not skills.

2. The more I play, the better I will get.

False: You have no control over the result, whether you already played before or not. Practice does not give you any advantages in gambling.

3. If I keep playing, I will win eventually.

False: The belief that the player will win eventually is called the gambler’s fallacy. For example, with slot machines, every time you press the spin button, the odds are reset.

4. If I strongly believe that I will win, I have more chance of winning.

False: This is a common mistaken belief that is called magical thinking. Wishing or praying does not influence your luck in gambling.

5. If I keep winning, that means I'm on a winning streak and I can't lose.

False: Every event is independent of the previous one.

6. It is not possible to become addicted to gambling.

False: Gambling can be just as addictive as alcohol or drugs. It affects the brain in similar ways.

Warning signs (back to top)

If you or your friends gamble, it is important to know the warning signs.

  • Approximately 6% of youth in Grades 9 through 12 reported some form of harm from gambling. For example, loss of saving, losing belongings, or skipping class.
  • In Ontario, 7 % of young adults have severe gambling problems. This is 3 times the rate of problem gambling in the overall adult population in Ontario.

Watch out if you or your friend start to…

  • Prefer gambling over other activities
  • Hide your gambling from others
  • Start to lie, steal, or borrow money for gambling
  • Have arguments with friend and family, especially about money
  • Neglect important responsibilities like work, school, and family to gamble
  • Spend more time or money gambling than planned
  • Try to stop gambling but cannot
  • Get defensive when someone talks about their gambling
  • Spend increased time online to play games that involve money

From no gambling to harmful gambling?

Gambling involvement increases during adolescence and peaks in young adulthood when the risk for gambling harms are more severe. Harms can be experienced at any level of gambling involvement. Harms can reach into all aspects of a person’s life – social, financial, cultural, academic, health, and well-being. Examples of harms from gambling can include loss of savings, financial hardship and conflict within the family, emotional distress, criminal activity, and negative impact on school or work.

Harmful gambling could progress to a gambling disorder and is in the same group of mental health disorders such as alcohol and other drug addiction, as it affects the brain in similar ways.

How does gambling problems affect my health and wellbeing? (back to top)

You may experience more symptoms than just financial hardship, such as...

Relationship /Social

  • Ignoring friends or losing a friendship
  • Spend more time with your friends online than your usual group of friends
  • Feeling isolated from your friends and family


  • Loss of interest in school
  • Skipping school
  • Forgetting about your homework


  • Have frequent and severe mood swings
  • Unexplained anger
  • Irritability
  • Feeling sad or anxious


  • Changes in eating habits
  • Losing sleep
  • Not doing regular physical activity

Stigma and not knowing where to turn for help can prevent people from reaching out. If you or someone you know are experiencing some of these problems with gambling, reach out for help. The sooner individuals can get help, the better. See below for a list of resources.

Self-assessment Quiz (back to top)

If you would like to know how you feel about gambling, do this Self-assessment quiz

Tips and tricks (back to top)

If you choose to gamble, here are some strategies to reduce your risk.

  • Make a plan
    • Set time limits
    • Set money limit
    • Take breaks
  • Only bet what you can afford to lose
    • Bring a limited amount of money with you
    • Leave your credit and debit cards at home
    • Only spend as much as you would on a night out at the movies
  • Hope to win, expect to lose
    • Statistically, you are more likely to lose, the odds are against you
  • Educate yourself about the game
    • What are your chances of winning?
    • Is this a legitimate website?
    • Who runs the website?
  • Avoid linking credit cards to online games, choose gift cards if necessary
  • Be careful with consuming alcohol or drugs while gambling
    • It can change the way you think, and you may take bigger risks
  • Keep a balanced life
    • Participate in other activities such as sport or hobbies
    • Stick to your routine like family dinners
    • Avoid gambling when you would normally be sleeping
  • Ask for help!
    • Talk to someone you trust; a friend, a teacher, a family member, or a professional if you are experiencing problems with gambling

Resources (back to top)

If you or someone you know needs support, help is available!


Youth Service Jeunesse:

Online Peer Support:

Ontario Information centre

Help phone lines

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Distress centre: 613-238-3311 
Youth Service Bureau: 613-260-2360 (specifically for youth under 18 years old)

Other Services

Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services: 613- 724-4881
Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon: 613-567-3271
Sandy Hill Community Health Centre: 613-789-1500

More information:

Contact Us