Problem of The Underage Gambling in Canada

In general, gambling appeals most to younger adults. Those 18-19 years of age indicated the highest level of gambling participation over the last year (81%) while those over 65 indicate the least (65%). Although the data do not indicate how many of these 18-19 year old respondents also gambled before it was legal to do so, the high level of participation over the last 12 months for this age group suggests underage gambling warrants further study.

Mounting research with respect to the high rates of adolescent problem gambling and the emerging electronic gambling technologies have increased the attention paid to the issue of underage gambling. It is an issue in which governments face a dilemma. In order to maintain gambling revenue streams, governments attempt to make their games appealing to younger adult Canadians, but must also be wary of attracting underage gamblers through the same policies. For example, lotteries are a significant revenue source for provincial governments, but they are less popular with the 18-34 age cohort. To counter this trend, some lottery ads and games are designed to draw more interest from this younger group. However, these policies can draw criticism; for example, the Quebec government drew attention when it tested an interactive lottery program directed at attracting younger players.

The survey probed public concerns on underage gambling through a question related to bingo. Bingo was chosen both because it has been traditionally seen as a relatively benign form of gambling and because bingo is increasingly being marketed as a family-based activity. Despite stereotypes, bingo is not a seniors-dominated activity. In fact, at 13%, more 18-34 year olds played bingo in Canada last year than those 35-54 (12%) and those over 55 years of age (8%). To capitalize on this growing trend, a recent policy review in Alberta, where bingo play has been restricted to those 18 years of age or older since 1998, recommended that bingo halls be allowed to make infrequent exceptions to this regulation to allow rural bingo associations to serve their family-based clients.

The survey asked respondents to indicated whether ÒENTRANCE into bingo halls should be restricted to those 18 years of age or older.Ó Their responses are displayed in Figure 13. Opinions on this issue are clear, with 70% of respondents strongly agreeing (85% agree overall) that the minimum age for entrance to a bingo hall should be 18Ðthe highest level of strong agreement for any issue on the survey. While the strength of this opinion may be related to a myriad of factors, and not necessarily underage gambling, these data do imply that respondents believe that bingo halls should not permit underage gambling to occur. Because the question asked about ENTRANCE into halls and not gambling specifically, this high level of agreement was not anticipated. These data would also suggest potential implications for the volunteer base of the charitable organizations and bingo associations who rely upon youth volunteers to run events.

Age plays an important role in determining views on underage access to bingo. Not surprisingly, agreement with restrictions on entering bingo halls increases with age. This result is likely influenced by the Òright to gambleÓ arguments. Younger persons are the strongest supporters of the right to gamble and are also the strongest supporters of allowing underage access to bingo (see Figure 14). Despite significant variations in strength of opinion, all age cohorts agree that minors should not have access to bingo facilities.

FIGURE 13: DO YOU AGREE THAT: “entrance into bingo halls should be restricted to those 18 years of age or older”
Strongly Agree / 70%
Somewhat Agree / 15%
Neither / 8%
Somewhat Disagree / 4%
Strongly Disagree / 3%
FIGURE 14: STRONGLY AGREE “entrance into bingo halls should be restricted to those 18 years of age or older” (BY AGE)
18-19 years old / 41%
20-24 years old / 69%
25-34 / 74%
35-44 / 75%
45-54 / 59%
55-64 / 70%
over 65 / 76%