May 20th, 2011

Problem gambling set to explode

CBC News

An explosion of online gambling sites is quickly creating more gambling addicts than provincial governments can treat, new medical research suggests.

A review of the latest research on compulsive gambling — how common it is, its causes and potential treatment — was published online Thursday in the British journal The Lancet.

The authors said provincially run gambling websites in British Columbia and Quebec and plans for one in Ontario will be luring more and more people to round-the-clock gambling.

And the trend toward internet gambling means potential addicts will need to be identified faster, said David Hodgins, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary and the lead author of the paper.

A simple survey of three questions can help identify pathological gamblers and start treatment, Hodgins said.

The questions included:

* Have you ever tried to stop gambling?
* Have you ever lied about how much you gamble or how much you lost?
* Have there ever been periods lasting two weeks or longer when you spent a lot of time thinking about your gambling experiences or planning out future gambling ventures or bets?

A yes to any of the questions shows the need for a closer look.

“Training practitioners in different sectors to be able to do brief, quick and easy screening for gambling problems would be very helpful,” he said.

Hodgins and his co-authors in Calgary and Minnesota said the estimated prevalence of gambling ranges from one in 500 people in Norway to one in 20 people in Hong Kong. In Canada and the U.S., about one in 100 people is a pathological gambler, the most serious level of addiction.

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