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Topic Overview


​​​​​​​​​​For most people gambling is something that they enjoy doing once in a while. People play lotteries and bingos, go to casinos, or bet on horse races and sporting events. Proceeds from gambling are used to fund charitie​s, non-profit agencies, and community programs.

Below are some questions and answers about gambling.

What is gambling?

Gambling is the act of risking money, property, or something of value on an activity that has an uncertain outcome. Gambling takes many forms:
  • lottery tickets, raffle tickets, or scratch-and-win tickets
  • Sport Select tickets
  • playing card games for money
  • playing games of skill (such a​s pool, golf, arm wrestling, or darts) for money
  • betting money on anything (like whether a friend will ask someone out)

What is legalized gambling?

Legalized gambling comes in many forms in Alberta. They include casinos, racetracks, video lottery terminals (VLTs), bingo, Sport Select, and lotteries. These types of gambling are legal because they’re managed by the government or by regulations set by the government.

So what is illegal gambling?

Illegal gambling is gambling that happens outside of these regulations. Placing a bet with a bookie (someone who accepts large bets from different people) on a professional sporting event is an example.

Why do people gamble?

People gamble for a lot of reasons:
  • for fun or excitement
  • to escape or forget about problems
  • to win money
  • to feel challenged

Do teenagers gamble much?

About 2 out of 3 teenagers gamble. Teens usually gamble through bets with friends on card games, pool games, or pro sports. Teens aged 18 and older are allowed to play VLTs, gamble in casinos, and buy lottery tickets.

Is there such a thing as a safe bet?

All gambling or betting has some risk. Here are some guidelines for gambling responsibly:
  • limit the amount of money you bet
  • limit the amount of time you spend betting
  • balance gambling with other social opportunities and interests
  • don’t spend your winnings on gambling

Most people gamble responsibly. But for some people, gambling can be a lot like an addictive drug—and it can become a problem. People with gambling problems often have trouble with money, stress, and family or relationship problems. They may often feel guilty and out of control because of their losses. People with gambling problems may also get into trouble like gambling until all of their money is gone, owing money to family and friends, and going into debt to pay for their gambling. This kind of trouble can cause stress, fear, pain, and embarrassment for the people involved.

For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the 24-hour Help Line.

Current as of: April 11, 2019

Author: Addiction & Mental Health, Alberta Health Services