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Social Costs of Problem Gambling

Some research has shown that gambling is the most expensive compulsions known. 60% of Canadian adults gamble. In 2020, Canadians spent over $17 billion on legalized gambling and $4 billion online. Problem gambling rates range from 1-4% depending on the research and online rates are estimated to be four times higher. This hidden illness creates a dramatic social cost.


  • Problem gamblers may create costs for their employers due to tardiness, absenteeism, extended lunch breaks, theft, and/or time spent on the phone/online gambling and dealing with crises. In Quebec, researchers found that problem gambling among employees cost employers 5 hours a month in late time. At an average annual wage of $30,000, lost wages would add up to $5 million annually. Additional costs to employers may also occur in terms of financial losses due to employee theft and embezzlement to finance gambling behaviour.
  • Compulsive gamblers may also ask for cash advances and/or attempt to borrow money from co-workers as a way to fuel their gambling behaviour. Above all else, the problem gambler is likely very distracted. When an individual spends a considerable amount of time concentrating on his/her gambling and related money problems, their work inevitably suffers.
  • There is always the possibility that a problem gambler could lose their job as a result of their actions. Research has found these rates to be as high as 36%. As a result, employers may incur severance or replacement costs, such as hiring and training costs. Society as a whole, however, may be left to bear the cost of subsequent unemployment compensation and retraining.


  • The relationship of problem gambling and crime has been the subject of considerable debate. While estimates vary widely, studies show about 2/3 of individuals experiencing problems associated with gambling commit crimes to continue gambling. The crimes committed are generally non-violent and almost always involve the illegal obtaining of funds, forgery, embezzlement, fencing stolen goods, insurance fraud, and/or credit card theft. The costs of police, trials, and incarceration are also social costs of gambling-related crime.


  • In order to support their dependance, pathological gamblers often resort to misusing credit cards, writing bad cheques, and borrowing money from family and friends. When these destructive habits persist, many problem gamblers are forced to declare bankruptcy. Unpaid debts can be financially damaging to the creditor with the creditor being saddled with subsequent costs in an attempt to recover the bad debt.


  • Research indicates a significant positive relationship between stress related ailments and gambling compulsions. Common health issues are stomach problems, insomnia, ulcers, colitis, high blood pressure and migraines.
  • The mental health correlations are very high in the pathological gambling population. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are highly prevalent issues. Hospital and medical costs associated with the treatment of all of these conditions can not be overlooked.


  • The expansion of legalized gambling in Canada has resulted in the need for additional treatment programs to combat gambling-related problems. In the province of BC, the Responsible and Problem Gambling program provides contracted counselling, support, and prevention to anyone impacted by Problem Gambling. Click here to refer yourself.

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