Understanding Mental Health


High Risk Behaviours


Gambling among Teens

According to Lynette Gilbeau, Research Coordinator at the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours at McGill University, for most individuals, gambling (for money) is an enjoyable form of entertainment and a socially acceptable recreational pastime. However, for some people, what begins as an enjoyable, relatively benign activity can escalate into a problem with serious social, emotional, interpersonal, physical, financial and legal ramifications.
Gambling, once thought to only be an adult activity, has clearly been shown to be popular among children and adolescents. Recent data suggest that upwards of 80% of youth report having gambled for money during their lifetime, with about 63% of Canadian youth reporting having gambled in the last year. At present, 4-6% of youth are experiencing a pathological gambling problem with another 10-15% being at risk for developing such a problem.
(Reference: Derevensky, J. (2011). Teen gambling: Understanding a growing epidemic. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.) Card games including poker, scratch tickets, betting on games of skill or sport are among the most popular forms of gambling among High School students.  (Reference: Institut de la statistique du Québec, Enquête Québécoise sur le tabac, l’alcool et les drogues chez les élèves du secondaire, 2006)


The importance of prevention

Research suggests that age of onset is correlated with a gambling addiction.  Many problem gamblers report having been introduced to gambling as early as 10 years of age.  Early awareness and prevention programs are crucial. 

McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours has developed multiple award-winning gambling prevention and awareness materials for use with children as young as 8-9 years of age through adolescence.  For more information, see: www.youthgambling.com.

La Maison Jean Lapointe provides free gambling awareness workshops in French and in English Quebec secondary schools. For more information, please click here.


When gambling becomes a problem

Gambling among students during school hours can be more difficult to detect and respond to than other risk behaviours such as alcohol and drug use. A group of young people gathered together at lunch time around a pair of dice or a deck of cards would not typically raise concerns among educators and the consequences of problem gambling may not be felt as immediately as drug or alcohol use. Some signs of problem gambling may include:

  • Spending more money than you intended;

  • Playing for longer periods than planned;

  • Gambling instead of taking care of your responsibilities;

  • Thinking about gambling a lot of the time;

  • Having difficulty reducing gambling;

  • Chasing one’s losses (gambling to recover prior losses)

It is interesting to note that according to a Quebec study, over 20% of High School students have received lottery tickets as gifts (as parents and educators, we need to be aware of our own gambling behaviours and beliefs.)  (Reference: Institut de la statistiques du Québec, Enquête Québécoise sur le tabac, l’alcool et les drogues chez les élèves du secondaire, 2006)  

A gambling problem can have significant impact one’s individual functioning (affective, cognitive, social and academic) as well as on mental and physical health.


Support for problem gambling  

For information on help for problem gambling, contact:

More information on youth and gambling  



Promoting mental health to strengthen school communities