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Apr 17
2 Gambling Motives that Increase Risks of Problem Gambling

Contributed by Thitapa Shinaprayoon, MS, Department of Psychology, University of Georgia

Around 2012, I had a chance to interview gamblers in Georgia, US as a part of a gambling study. Most common reasons these gamblers gambled were entertainment and winning money. I was curious to learn more about why people risk their money and invest so much of their time in gambling when most gamblers often lose more than they gain. Importantly, I wanted to know which gambling motives are likely to predict problem gambling. In 2014, my colleagues and I conducted a gambling study and found 2 gambling motives that significantly increase the risk of developing problem gambling.

  1. Entertainment – Gambling is like gaming. It is fun and engaging. So, it not surprising that people sometimes gamble to cope with stress and anxiety. One of the reasons why enjoyment makes gambling addictive is the adrenaline rush and excitement that come with winning or the chance of winning. And, if gamblers keep relying on gambling as a source of entertainment and not addressing repercussions like accumulating debts, the cycle of using gambling to cope with stress continues until gambling becomes problematic. Casinos and gambling companies are aware of this motive. That is why they market their products as entertainment and design gambling games to be fun and engaging to reinforce gambling behavior. 
  2. Social reason – Gambling to socialize with friends or meet new people is also a risk of developing problem gambling because social gambling creates social circles of gamblers and reinforces gambling behavior. Gamblers also tend to have other gamblers in their circles rather than non-gamblers. This means that if gamblers go out together, they are likely to gamble together. 

I hope that knowing these gambling motivations that are risks to developing problem gambling can help clinicians find suitable support for their patients. Clinicians could encourage their patients to substitute gambling with other entertaining activities that do not cause harm or could encourage their patients to find non-gambler friends, whether inside or outside of their circles.

For more information about Thitapa's study, please see the article The Modified Gambling Motivation Scale: Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Links With Problem Gambling published on the JGI website. 


Mar 23
Market Cannibalization Within and Between Gambling Industries

Contributed by Virve Marionneau, PhD, and Janne Nikkinen, ThD, University of Helsinki Centre for Research on Addiction, Control and Governance (CEACG), Faculty of Social Sciences

Our recently published systematic review paper in Journal of Gambling Issues focused on market cannibalization within and between gambling industries. In economics, cannibalization refers to a process in which a new product or service partly or completely substitutes for those in existing markets. In the field of gambling, this refers to substitution between different types of gambling games. We conducted an analysis of available studies regarding such cannibalization. The final data consisted of 58 original research articles. The results show that new gambling products substitute to a certain extent for existing gambling products, but examples of complete substitution are rare. In most cases, new products only partially cannibalize existing markets, thereby expanding the overall gambling offer. The sector in which the evidence is most convincing is the casino industry, which partially cannibalizes lotteries and pari-mutuel racing. There is also evidence that casinos partially substitute for other casinos and for non-casino electronic gaming machines. Lotteries partially substitute for casinos, other lotteries, sports betting, and pari-mutuel or racing industries. In some cases, market relationships are complementary. This appears to be the case in particular for online gambling which does not seem to reduce consumption in other gambling products, but directly expands the offerings and consumption of gambling games.

Overall, the results indicate that new gambling games do not completely substitute for existing products, but rather expand the market. This expansion of gambling has many direct consequences for consumers, governments and treatment professionals. Although evidence remains limited, the so-called total consumption model appears to apply to gambling. The model has been widely applied in fields such as alcoholism, and suggests that when the total consumption increases, so do the levels of problems. Gambling causes a wide range of harm to individuals, families and societies. Although clinicians face individual problem gamblers at the micro level, it is important to bear in mind these macro level developments to understand that problem gambling is not only an individual condition, but also a result of societal encouragement that some individuals are more vulnerable to. Concretely, this would mean taking into account the manifold gambling opportunities in treatment situations, and understanding how effective marketing strategies and enticing new gambling products may encourage players not only to try new games, but also to gamble more overall.

Our research on gambling at the Centre for Research on Addiction, Control and Governance (CEACG) at the University of Helsinki, Finland focuses on these societal and institutional problems of gambling provision, rather than on the individual gambler. We are currently conducting a European comparison on the use and dependencies of governments on gambling profits. These issues will be discussed in our forthcoming edited volume ‘Gambling policies in European welfare states: Current challenges and future prospects’ (edited by Egerer, Marionneau and Nikkinen; published by Palgrave McMillen in 2018). We are also continuing our research into cannibalization in gambling industries in a forthcoming systematic review paper that focuses on whether gambling industries cannibalize other sectors, such as entertainment and restaurant services. This study will shed further light on the impacts that gambling industries have on local economies, and whether gambling actually brings any additional financial benefit to the jurisdictions that introduce it or whether it merely displaces consumption away from other, less dangerous, commodities or reduces savings.

Mar 05
From a 10-year-old “successful gambler” to defending a PhD on poker

​Contributed by Niri Talberg, MA, Researcher at Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research, Oslo, Norway

“If you stop winning, try your luck as a researcher”

I was quite proud and excited when I delivered the coupon in the kiosk that warm summer day in 1991. I was 10 years old and as always I spent the beginning of our summer holidays at my grandfather's house. That summer, to keep me occupied, I had been allowed to study the most prestigious form of gambling and the only form of sports betting available for Norwegians: “tippekupongen”. It was a weekly coupon that consisted of 12 soccer matches with three possible outcomes. After thorough analysis of the teams' injuries, current form, and history against their opponent, I started sweet-talking, nagging, and eventually persuading my grandfather and father into giving me enough money to purchase 8 half-hedges, to the cost of 256 Norwegian kroner [41 CAD]. Back then there was no age limit for gambling. For the first (and last) time in my gambling career, it went exactly as I had expected in all 12 games. I am quite sure that if I had won a million kroner (or even a million CAD) today, it would have felt like a lot less than the 2,688 CAD I won that day. With that, a passionate gambler was born.

When I started secondary education, the betting options had increased a great deal. I could try my luck on two betting coupons each week in addition to regular sports betting with matches every day. I was regarded as an experienced sports better and enjoyed some recognition from older peers. My systems had become more sophisticated; but to be honest, we were far from breaking even. I was used to a strictly regulated gambling market, however things were about to change. The old mechanical and fairly harmless slot machines were swapped out with highly aggressive electronical machines. Instead of wagering 6 kroner [1 CAD] in 10-15 seconds, it was now possible to wager 1000 kroner [160 CAD] in 10 seconds. I would see the new machines in almost all convenience stores and kiosks, and unlike the old machines, they were almost always occupied by adults and often retirees. The topic was hotly debated and the lobbyists managed to delay effective regulation until the end of 2006. I did not lose a lot of money on the slot machines, mostly because I never had much pocket money. However, I did experience losing track of time while playing and one time I forgot to collect my dog when going home from the kiosk. As for many others, this second part of my gambling career was less successful than the first.

In 2003, another form of gambling got my attention. Bookstores sold poker chips and there were often poker tournaments on TV. I watched James Bond playing Texas Hold’em at the movie theater (instead of baccarat) and even Coca Cola used poker to sell Cola light (Cola Zero) to us boys. I read several poker books and practiced with play money for at least one year before I started to gamble with real money. I had finally found a game where I made money in the long run after having tried multiple forms of gambling for the last 15 years. I started studying at the university and become increasingly interested in reading research on gambling while my own gambling became less frequent. I strongly felt that the Norwegian research literature did not understand the difference between poker and other games, and that questions used to diagnose gambling problems were unfit for a game like poker. I decided that I had to make my own survey and hand coded 953 surveys into the statistical program SPSS.

After submitting my Masters, I worked several years as an Educational and Psychological Counsellor. School refusal was among the topics I worked on. Gaming had become a lot more time-consuming since technology made it possible to play computer and video games online and cooperate with team mates from around the globe in different time zones. Games that continued even after the player had stopped playing were a new thing. As a counsellor, I experienced that it is quite hard to talk a pupil into going to school if he risks being kicked out of his team if he misses their practice. And chances are he won’t tell you about the game. Although I had completed my Masters, my survey had brought up more questions than it answered. I was eager to do more research to understand the poker players’ perspective.

In 2013, I finally got funding to become a PhD student at my university’s department of education. Although the quantitative data I had collected was a great stepping stone, it was crucial to talk to several players and listen to their histories. It lead to a qualitative trilogy where I study (1) their learning process, (2) how poker has affected their education and (3) the long-term effects (problems with relating to stigmatization from non-players and ethical dilemmas when playing against suspected problem gamblers). The article on long-term effects will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Gambling Issues (JGI) and the article on how gambling affects education is now available in JGI 2017:37. In the article currently in the JGI, you can meet several players that are considering dropping out of education to pursue careers as professional poker players and a few that already have. The competition among the players can be described like an arms race where investing more time than their opponents is essential to develop sufficient skills. I argue that the poker player base has become more homogenous and skilled. Since having a significant skill advantage over other players is necessary to make playing profitable, I believe that the players’ inclination to drop out of education is reduced.

Looking ahead, today March 5th, 2018 is a quite significant day for me. It is the due date for my first born, a son, and also the day I am expected to defend my PhD thesis at the University of Oslo. I am sure you all wonder; will I allow my son to gamble in 2028 when he turns 10? Probably not, however the games competing for his attention are likely to be almost unlimited.

Feb 13
The Responsible Gambling Council and the PlaySmart Centres

Contributed by Sasha Stark, PhD, Manager, Special Research Projects and Lorelle Muller Lumsden, Senior Project Manager, PlaySmart Centres, both with the Responsible Gambling Council

Many Ontarians gamble. They play the lottery with the hope of cashing in on that big dream. They plan nights out at casinos and slots – and even have their favourite gambling spots. Some enjoy playing bingo and hanging out with their friends in between play sessions.

Since many Ontarians gamble, it only makes sense to ensure that those who choose to gamble have access to accurate information to help them make informed decisions about their play. And if anyone has a concern about their gambling, they should have access to assistance and support.

PlaySmart Centres are an onsite source for facts, tools, and advice about gambling for all levels of players. Whether someone’s new to gambling or more of a regular player, PlaySmart Centres provide gambling information in a fun and interactive manner. The Centres are designed to promote and encourage conversation.

Players can:

  • try a hands-on interactive slot demo
  • participate in interactive educational events that have players popping a die to learn about gambling concepts or busting a popular gambling myth
  • take a play break – chat with other players or a PlaySmart Centre staff.

And if someone is looking for ways to get help, the PlaySmart Centre and its staff are a good place to turn for support and information about help options.

The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) has been managing and operating PlaySmart Centres (formerly Responsible Gambling Resource Centres) since 2005. PlaySmart Centres are located at casinos, slots, and charitable bingo and gaming centres across Ontario. RGC works collaboratively with Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) to bring education, and assistance when needed, directly to people who are gambling.

PlaySmart Centre at Shorelines Casino Belleville

What do clinicians in Ontario need to know about the services provided through PlaySmart Centres?

In January 2017, OLG and RGC began introducing a new generation of PlaySmart Centres, with the first of its kind at Shorelines Casino Belleville (pictured). The new PlaySmart Centres have decreased responsible gambling messaging stigma and moved towards being more integrated into the player’s overall experience – and here’s how:

  • Continuing to place PlaySmart Centres in high traffic, highly visible locations
  • Increasing PlaySmart Centre visibility off the gaming floor
  • Introducing PlaySmart Centre staff presence on the gaming floor – interacting with interested players and gaming staff to increase awareness and build rapport
  • Delivering interactive demos and activities to players on the floor – raising awareness about how gambling works, and bringing helpful tips and facts right to players
  • Creating opportunities to promote and encourage conversation at the PlaySmart Centres with a “coffee house meets science centre” philosophy
  • Broadening the PlaySmart message to speak to different levels of players – making PlaySmart Centre staff and the space friendlier for all players

This increased integration means that PlaySmart Centre staff are more readily accessible to players when they are needed – for information or for support – and that responsible gambling messages will reach more players.

How can a PlaySmart Centre help a person in distress at a gambling venue?

Recognizing that gambling has associated risks, it’s important that those who are concerned about their own or someone else’s gambling have access to support. The PlaySmart Centre is a place where someone can find ways to get help right onsite – be it through a brochure about local counselling or a PlaySmart Centre staff who helps get them connected to the support they need. PlaySmart Centre staff do not provide ongoing counselling to individuals, but are trained to provide immediate support and explore appropriate help options.

PlaySmart Centres continue to be a support to anyone wishing to self-exclude or reinstate at casino and slot venues. When someone is self-excluding, PlaySmart Centres offer helpful contacts to local problem gambling and credit counselling, along with helplines for mental health and drug and alcohol concerns. PlaySmart Centre staff can walk someone through the help options to see what might best suit the immediate needs of the individual.

At the time of reinstatement, PlaySmart Centres provide tips on how to keep play low-risk and information on warning signs to look for that would tell someone that their gambling may be becoming a problem.

More recently, PlaySmart Centre staff have been working with gaming staff to effectively respond to players on the floor, who may be experiencing problems with gambling.

What is new and emerging from RGC?

The RGC’s Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices recently developed best practices for youth gambling prevention. These best practices are based on evaluations of youth prevention programs, the experiences of those who work with youth with gambling problems, and a quantitative survey of youth in Ontario. Insights from this work will be used to inform RGC’s ongoing youth prevention programs, GameBrain – an educational game show about the risks of youth gambling – and Know the Score 2 – an interactive problem gambling awareness display and social media campaign for college and university students.

The Centre regularly conducts Insight projects, which examine a particular problem gambling issue in detail. The current Insight project focuses on video lottery terminal play in Canada and Keno play in British Columbia. It looks at how people play these games, what risky and responsible play looks like, and the available responsible gambling resources. The final Insight report will be publicly available in March 2018.

Results from the Insight project, and many other interesting topics, will be covered at this year’s Discovery conference April 11th and 12th in Toronto. RGC has organized sessions on a variety of topics including the impact of gambling on Indigenous communities, the differences between gaming and gambling, and the psychology and biology behind risk taking. You can register now or submit a poster presentation to be part of this engaging two-day conference.

Jan 19
Brain Connections: Clinical Handouts That Will Excite You!

​Contributed by Deirdre Querney, Registered Social Worker with the City of Hamilton’s Alcohol, Drug & Gambling Services and Instructor at the McMaster Centre for Continuing Education

Brain Connections

Does this scenario sound familiar? You have a client in front of you who is trying to change her gambling behaviour but she is plagued by strong urges, demoralized by how difficult the change process is and feels betrayed by her brain that seems to tell her that gambling is still desirable, even in the face of terrible consequences. The client says to you “What’s wrong with my brain? What is happening to me??”

Your heart sinks a little bit at the question. After all, the brain is complicated. You want to answer her question but the answer is not all that clear, even to you. So, you take a deep breath and weave together an answer that is a patchwork of ideas from the last conference you attended, an article you read, something a learned colleague said and your own anecdotal evidence. You hope that what you are saying makes sense to the client and helps her feel less frustrated and ashamed. You also hope that what you have said is accurate, but you’re not entirely sure.

I have been a problem gambling counsellor at the Alcohol, Drug & Gambling Services (ADGS) in the City of Hamilton for 17 years and I have been asked questions about the neurobiology of problem gambling hundreds of times. My answers have changed over the years as I have picked up new information from various sources but what hasn’t changed is my worry that what I was saying was not completely evidence-informed. As the consulting psychiatrist for our program once told me “Deirdre, you tell a good story and it probably is helpful to your clients. I just don’t know if it’s actually true.”

In an effort to correct my “patchwork quilt” approach to answering these important questions, I became involved in a project funded by the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO) called Brain Connections. My team included Dr. Iris Balodis and her graduate student, Fiza Arshad from the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research as well as my ADGS colleague and fellow problem gambling counsellor, Andrea Strancaric. Together, we set out to answer five of the most often-asked questions about the brain and problem gambling and then to turn those answers into clinical handouts designed to enhance treatment sessions with clients.

The five questions are:

  1. How is problem gambling like an addiction to alcohol or drugs from my brain’s point of view?
  2. Why do people keep gambling even when it’s not fun anymore?
  3. Why is it hard to say “no” to an urge?
  4. When I’m not gambling, why does it feel like nothing else―even activities I used to enjoy―will ever be fun again?
  5. Why do people sometimes switch from gambling to another addiction?

We are very excited to unveil the result of Brain Connections, which is five high quality, person-centered and visually appealing clinical handouts.

Each handout has four parts to it: (1) a summary of the research to answer the question at hand, (2) an activity to help clients understand the information in the handout, (3) a discussion question to help clients think about how the information might personally apply and (4) a take-home message summarizing the main ideas in the handout. We have also developed a single summary sheet of all the information for people who just want to hear the bottom line without reading all the handouts.

We invited clients from ADGS to tell us what they thought about the handouts. What they told us is that these handouts can serve many purposes. They can:

  • Be comforting when it feels like the brain is on auto-pilot and working against the treatment goal
  • Help prevent relapses by providing information about urges and substitutions
  • Prepare people to have a realistic sense of what to expect from the brain as it heals from a gambling addiction
  • Give hope that change is possible.

To download the handouts, please go to

You can also see GREO’s promotional video about Brain Connections.

Sign up for one of our webinars hosted by the CAMH Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario on May 16th or May 28th, 2018 when we will be discussing how to best use the handouts in your clinical practice.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Brain Connections. If you try our handouts and want to give us feedback about your experience, we would love to hear from you! Please see our contact information on our website.

Dec 21
Adolescent Problem Gambling: A Prevention Guide for Parents

​Contributed by Toula Kourgiantakis, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Simulation Program at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto and a Registered Couple and Family Therapist

Adolescent Problem Gambling: A Prevention Guide for Parents thumbnail What was the rationale for creating Adolescent Problem Gambling: A Prevention Guide for Parents?

The handbook Adolescent Problem Gambling: A Prevention Guide for Parents was developed after discussions between the writers highlighted some of the gaps we were observing in our work with adolescents and emerging adults with gambling concerns. The first concern was that despite the fact that statistics showed problem gambling to be much higher among adolescents and young adults, we were seeing few young people with gambling problems in the clinic. That was surprising considering the results of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) completed by students in grades 7 to 12 across Ontario. This survey showed that 24% of grade 7 students are gambling and by grade 12, this jumps to 41%. Among students who are gambling, almost 5% state that they have a problem, of which 1% report that the problem is severe. This represents 7,500 adolescents in Ontario (Boak et al., 2015).

Our clinical work and research in this area also indicated that a large proportion of the youth with gambling problems are coping with other difficulties such as substance use, problem technology use, depression, anxiety, conflict with parents, as well as academic and social difficulties.

In consulting other experts and the research on this topic, we started formulating hypotheses about why adolescents were not seen in higher numbers in clinical settings. This may be due to not having services specifically adapted for this age group. It may be challenging for an adolescent to fit in to a group treatment program with most participants being in an older age bracket. It may also be connected to the fact that many addiction treatment centres do not offer family-centred services that support parents, enhance treatment entry for youth, prevent youth from dropping out of treatment and improve outcomes when youth complete treatment.

We also noted that while there has been a lot more research on adolescent problem gambling, very little has been done to promote problem gambling prevention. There are a few prevention programs delivered through schools, but they are not offered in a uniform manner across all schools. The work on substance use programming has demonstrated that prevention programs offered in schools have much greater impact in reducing risks or harm to children and adolescents when parents are involved. Yet, there have been no problem gambling prevention programs reported to date that involve parents (Kourgiantakis et al., 2016).

Another possibility discussed by our team on why adolescents and their families were not getting professional help was that perhaps the professionals were unfamiliar with problem gambling and were not asking the right questions. A gambling research team in Montreal surveyed teachers (Derevensky, et al., 2014) and mental health professionals (Dickson & Derevensky, 2006; Temcheff et al., 2014) working in schools and found that gambling was unknown and not viewed as an area of priority by professionals.

Considering all of these hypotheses, we wondered whether some of these youth are not getting any help and whether others are getting help, but not for problem gambling. Perhaps some of these youth who may be seen in children’s mental health centres are presenting with other concerns, and so problem gambling is not being screened, assessed and/or reported. This led us to develop this guide that we hope will be disseminated in children’s mental health centres, schools, hospitals, community centres, and adult addiction treatment centres. It is important to raise awareness in order to reduce risks. For an adolescent with higher risks, early intervention is key to reducing the likelihood that problem gambling will become more severe and/or will contribute to the onset of other problems.

Based on your clinical experience and research, what new forms of gambling are youth engaging in? Does this change how treatments and supports are offered/tailored for youth?

We know that most youth are engaging in some form of online gambling and that there is a connection with problem video gaming or problem technology use. While the services addressing problematic technology use among youth have increased in addiction and mental health treatment centres, there are still important gaps in policy and services. There is a need for well-defined best practices. Experts have recommended doing more around prevention and ensuring parents are involved.

We know that children who have a parent with a gambling problem are at much greater risk of developing a gambling problem. For clinicians who are working with parents with problem gambling, it is important to discuss ways they can reduce harm to their children. We previously developed Problem Gambling: A Guide for Parents to help parents learn ways they can prevent the intergenerational transmission of problem gambling.

Where can clinicians access the handbook?

The guide is free and available now on CAMH Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario’s professionals website here.

Oct 17
Gamtalk and the Importance of Online Peer Support

Contributed by Dr. Richard Wood, Founder & Director at GamTalk and Owner at GamRes Ltd.​

What is gamtalk?

Gamtalk is an online community for anyone who has questions or concerns about gambling behaviour. Maybe it's their own gambling, or that of a family or friend. Or maybe it's someone in treatment who needs a little extra support, or someone in recovery who wants to share with others. At gamtalk, they can chat with people all over the world who are facing or have faced that same situation—24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

It's a place where someone struggling with the shame and stigma that comes with addiction can join in anonymously, or someone who isn't sure if they're ready for formal treatment can seek advice and find out about options. People in treatment might need some encouragement to avoid a relapse, while someone else might look for advice on how to talk to a family member about their gambling. Someone needing encouragement to overcome their gambling problems can find inspiration in the stories of others who have walked the same road. And in addition to peer support, they can ask questions of qualified experts in gambling treatment and recovery.

Gamtalk is a non-profit organization providing services across North America and beyond. We are not a substitute for local helpline or treatment services. Rather, we provide encouragement to make that call, and we're there for people who for whatever reason can't make it to a traditional treatment program. We're also there for people who may believe their gambling is getting out of control, but are not yet in need of an intensive treatment program. We were founded and are managed by Dr. Richard Wood, an internationally recognized expert with almost 20 years of experience in the field of problem gambling.


What do visitors get from peer support?

One thing that we have learned at gamtalk, through talking and listening to people who have experienced gambling problems, is that they needed to hear positive recovery stories. Reading such stories shows that that there is hope—it can be done! Many people with gambling problems feel very alone, particularly if they have never talked to anyone about it before. Finding out that others have beaten a gambling problem can be the boost needed to begin the road to recovery. Such stories can also provide practical ideas and strategies that have worked for others. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so having lots of different options to try is extremely useful. To this end, gamtalk developed the "Stories of Hope" project. The aim is to gather together as many personal stories as possible about successfully managing a gambling problem. To date, we have 27 detailed recovery stories published. Each personal story is published anonymously as a free resource available to everyone.

Last year more than 200,000 people visited gamtalk, and we have found that it has the following advantages:

  • many people now turn to Google first to find answers and gamtalk is right there to help.
  • provides information and referral to other support and treatment services (local and national).
  • particularly popular with women. 
  • provides hope, reassurance and support from a community of members in similar situations. 
  • gives support and information to concerned friends, relatives, parents etc. 
  • is free to use for anyone with concerns or requiring information.
  • is easy and convenient to access; available 24/7.
  • particularly helpful for people in remote areas and people with mobility issues or other restrictions such as child care considerations.
  • provides a high level of anonymity for people who are not yet ready or willing to commit to face-to-face or telephone-based services.
  • can be used as additional support in conjunction with treatment services (e.g., counselling).
  • can be used to share a variety of strategies for coping with gambling issues.
  • provides hope for people who are experiencing problems and highlight warning signs for those in danger of developing problems.
  • can help people in recovery to abstain or cut back on their gambling behaviour and reduce impulsive decisions to gamble through accessing the service instead.


What advice would we give for setting up online peer support?

You can build the slickest website in the world and nobody will visit it unless you get the word out. Promoting your service is an essential part of the process. One way to do this is to buy advertising using Google Adwords, so that anyone searching in Google for terms related to problem gambling will see your website link and a description. You can specify the key search words and you can define where (geographically) you want the advert to be displayed (e.g., just Ontario).

Another paid promotion service that works really well is Facebook. Almost everyone has an account now and your ad can be targeted just to people who have visited gambling support groups, have liked gambling-related posts and other relevant criteria. Whilst you can also have a free Facebook page for your service, in our experience this doesn't attract many new visitors to your site. The key difference between a paid Facebook ad and a free Facebook page is that the ad is an anonymous experience for the visitor, whereas visiting or liking the free page is not and may be seen by the visitor's friends.

Sharing links with other relevant websites is one effective and free way to promote your online peer support service. Giving wallet cards with your website link to physical support services (e.g., counsellors, casino support staff) can also be a low-cost way to attract more visitors.

Also, don't expect to build a website and a community to evolve by itself. At first, there will be nobody around to talk to, so expect to have moderators respond to new visitors and have them pose questions and topics to get the conversations flowing. Once you start to get established, try to get people involved. Once you have some regular and trusted visitors, you can try letting them do some supervised moderating. Eventually, the community starts to take on a life of its own, but it takes time and perseverance.

Also, expect to completely redesign your website every four or five years. Websites age incredibly quickly and before you realize it your website is looking very tired and dated.

Finally, be prepared to deal with constant spammers and trolls who will try to disrupt your community. Having good technical support is critical here and it is essential to back up all of your precious community dialogues. One time, gamtalk was held hostage by hackers who demanded money to return our site back to us. Thankfully, we had backups of the entire site and were able to get back online with only minimal downtime and no ransom payments!

Running online peer support services can be very rewarding and we get lots of positive feedback from our visitors, many of which visit gamtalk for ongoing support whilst they also get help from traditional treatment and support services. Overall, it's a lot of work, but it's totally worth it.​

Sep 29
Welcome to the Blog for Professionals!

Hello all,

Welcome to your NEW blog! We are so excited to curate monthly blog articles contributed by experts from across Canada and around the world. We'll cover important, emerging topics and best practices in problem gambling and technology use prevention and treatment. We hope this blog provides you with new ideas, knowledge and things to consider in your practice.

We also encourage you to ask questions and post comments about your own experiences and insights. Your contributions may help others who are new or seasoned professionals in the field.

Our goal is to provide professionals with opportunities to share and learn from each other about best practices in treatment and prevention of gambling- and technology-related concerns. We know that you're here because providing the best possible care for your clients matters to you. 

If you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact us:


The ECR Team

Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health​

Deirdre Querney
Virve Marionneau, PhD