The 1990s saw widespread expansion of new forms of legalized gambling involving video lottery terminals (VLTs) in community settings (that is, in bars and restaurant lounges) and permanent casinos in several Canadian provinces. To date, there has never been a national survey of gambling problems with representative interprovincial data. Using a new survey, we sought to compare prevalence figures across the 10 Canadian provinces.
Using the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, we investigated the current 12-month prevalence of gambling problems in the Canadian Community Health Survey: Cycle 1.2--Mental Health and Well-Being, in which a random sample of 34,770 community-dwelling respondents aged 15 years and over were interviewed. The response rate was 77%. The data are representative at the provincial level and were compared with the availability of VLTs per 1000 population and with the presence of permanent casinos for each province.
Manitoba (2.9%) and Saskatchewan (also 2.9%) had the highest prevalence of gambling problems (specifically, moderate and severe problem levels combined). These 2 provinces had significantly higher levels than the 2 provinces with the lowest prevalence of gambling problems: Quebec (1.7%) and New Brunswick (1.5%).
The 12-month prevalence of gambling problems in Canada was 2.0%, with interprovincial variability. The highest prevalence emerged in areas with high concentrations of VLTs in the community combined with permanent casinos. These findings support earlier predictions that the rapid and prolific expansion of new forms of legalized gambling in many regions of the country would be associated with a considerable public health cost.
Comment In: Can J Psychiatry. 2006 Feb;51(2):127-8; author reply 12816989113