Online Gambling

Growing Up Online Toolkit for Service Providers

The Substance-Related Abuse and Dependency category was relabeled Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It was modified to include two subdivisions: substance-related disorders and non-substance-related disorders. The latter are defined as addictive disorders that do not involve the ingestion of a psychoactive substance. A non-substance-related disorder is called a behavioural or process addiction. Note that there is no consensus yet on what to include in this type of addiction. The DSM-5 includes only one condition-gambling disorder-in the category for behavioural/process addiction.

Key Learnings or Messages

  • Gambling can be used as an effective tool in the classroom or at home to foster experiential and inquiry-based learning. Gambling activities using cards, dice, bingo, and lotteries results can introduce mathematical knowledge in an enjoyable manner and provide problem solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Problem gambling can have devastating psychological, social, and financial consequences. When players gamble, even with virtual money, their brain activity is similar to those who consume drugs and alcohol.
  • Youth with problem gambling and youth with substance use disorders continue the addictive behaviour despite the negative effect on their lives.

Prevalence & Trends

Research shows that the younger individuals begin to gamble, the more likely they are to develop a gambling problem. Children and youth gambling in parallel with gaming. There is an intersection between gaming and gambling in terms of: interactivity, monetisation, betting and wagering, types of outcomes, structural fidelity, context and centrality of content, as well as advertising. As there is often an overlap between these behaviours, practitioners may want to inquire about other possible addictive or problematic online activities such as social networking, excessive use of platforms, applications or programs, cyberbullying, online pornography and any other use of digital technology, when providing services to children and youth with problem gambling.

Continuum of Online Gambling

Most children and youth may gamble with no harms. But for some, gambling becomes a problem when it negatively interferes with their lives, such as missing school or work, having arguments with family or friends, or worrying about lost money. Gambling problems can range from minor to significant issues.

Intervention & Treatment

Although currently most treatments for problem gambling are known to serve the adult population, there are services that focus on prevention and clinical strategies recommended for children, youth and their families to help them with problematic gambling. It is important to build rapport, connect with children and youth, gather the necessary information, and allow the client to identify their strengths, supports and resources. When appropriate, use screening and assessment tools to determine problematic use, along with evidence-based treatments, including family-centred and trauma-informed care approach, motivational interviewing and addiction counselling.

Case Study

The clinical description portrayed is fictional. Any resemblance with real cases are purely coincidental.

Screening and Assessment Tools

There are assessment and screening tools available to support services providers in prevention and clinical treatments. Even though the outcome of an assessment is not determinative in providing a diagnosis, a comprehensive evaluation may be useful to offer a feedback to the client. After every screening and assessment, ensure that the results are discussed with the clients, so they can be involved and have an active participation in their recovery process. Service providers must constantly reflect on their own beliefs, values and biases around gambling. Therefore, it is important for practitioners to develop skills and to set aside personal beliefs in order to complete a broad screening and assessment that will provide insight on problem gambling in children, youth and families.

Service Provider Resources

This section contains educational resources and recommendations for service providers to increase the knowledge and skills for their practice and also to engage in discussions with families about gambling.