The Inevitability of Gambling and Its Social Effects

Regional variations present now familiar patterns. Ontario respondents are most likely to agree that gambling is acceptable (67%), while Atlantic respondents are the most likely to disagree (34%). Quebec respondents show the highest level of ambiguity on this question.

As was seen in the above analysis of gamblingÕs acceptability, Canadians are willing to concede that gambling is an acceptable part of our community standards. However, this should not be interpreted as embracing the good and bad elements associated with gambling. On the contrary, gamblingÕs acceptability appears rooted in the perception that gambling is an inevitable part of our culture that cannot be muted. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree that Òpeople will find a way to gamble even if it is illegal.Ó A very strong majority (92%) agree with this statement (67% strongly agreeing) (Figure 26).
The strength of this sentiment is important to our understanding of public opinion on gambling. Canadians are aware of the problems associated with gambling, but do not feel these problems would go away if gambling opportunities were restricted. On the contrary, gambling is seen as an entrenched and permanent part of our culture. As a result, the regulation and operation of gambling by government are seen as the preferred means of controlling gamblingÕs negative consequences.

Canadians do not consider gambling to be as serious a social problem as some other issues. Using a ten point scale, respondents where asked to rate the seriousness of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, smoking, and driving above the speed limit. The mean scores are presented in Figure 27. At 6.2 out of ten, gambling addiction scores the lowest relative to these other social problems. If we assume a midpoint of 5.0, a score of 6.2 indicates that respondents view gambling as a moderately serious problem.

These data may be interpreted in a number of ways. Although gambling rated below smoking and driving too fast, these are both activities that lead to a high number of deaths each year. Although gambling-related deaths are just as tragic, they occur less frequently. It is also interesting to note that the high variability on the gambling addiction responses (standard deviation=2.5, highest of all five problems examined). Those who feel gambling to be a problem rate it as a very serious problem, while those respondents who feel it to be a less serious social problem rate it very low. This splitting of opinion into extremes is a distinguishable pattern, one that influences responses throughout the survey. Strongly divergent opinions exist on the importance of problem gambling as a social issue.

FIGURE 26: DO YOU AGREE THAT: “people will find a way to gamble even if it is illegal”
Strongly Agree – 67%
Somewhat Agree – 25%
Neither – 1%
Somewhat Disagree – 3%
Strongly Disagree – 3%
Drug Addiction – 7.2
Alcohol Addiction – 7.2
Smoking – 6.8
Driving Above Speed Limit – 6.8
Gambling Addiction – 6.2