We all know that many people in BC like to gamble. Advertising for lottery tickets and others forms of gambling are everywhere. But most of us know little about the numbers: How many people gamble? Which age groups participate? Who’s most likely to experience gambling problems? How have the numbers changed over time?

A wide-ranging study of gambling in BC was completed in 2014. Below are some key results.

Who gambles in BC?

  • Almost three quarters of adult British Columbians (72%) gambled at least once in the year prior to the study.
  • Some gambling activities became more popular since the previous study in 2008. Lottery games (+ 23%) and charity raffles (+ 14%) experienced the greatest increases while casino gambling and speculating on the stock market each increased 3%.
  • Lottery games were BC’s favorite gambling activity (44%).
  • People with incomes over $50,000 per year were more likely to gamble (78%) than those with incomes less than $50,000 per year (69%).
  • People aged 35-64 were the most likely to have gamble (75%), while young people aged 18-24 were least likely to gamble (62%), followed by people aged 65 or older (70%).

Who experiences problems when they gamble?

  • Three percent (3%) of adult British Columbians were at greater risk of having gambling problems.
  • People who said they were Aboriginal, Inuit, and Metis were almost twice as likely, and people who identified as South Asian were almost 3 times as likely to experience a problem with gambling.
  • Although least likely to gamble, young people aged 18-24 were more likely to experience problems when they gambled. That is, even though only 62% gamble, 7% of young people aged 18-24 experienced problems related to gambling and another 18% were at-risk of experiencing problems when gambling.
  • People with household incomes of $50,000 or less were more likely to experience problems with gambling (7.6% versus 3% in the general population).
  • People who were at-risk of, or who had problems with, gambling were more likely to have experienced a significant mental health issue (36% vs the general population (13.5%).
  • People who were at-risk of, or had problems with, gambling were more likely to use drugs or alcohol while gambling (35% compared to 19% of non-problem gamblers).  

What is the general public’s attitude toward gambling in BC?

  • British Columbians thought that entertainment, excitement and winning were the main benefits of gambling.
  • Almost half of British Columbians (47%) thought legalized gambling was about equally good and bad for society. Another 41% thought legalized gambling was bad or very bad. Only 9% thought legalized gambling was good or very good for society.
  • Most British Columbians (88%) felt they were not affected by problem gambling and if they were, had enough information to identify a problem.
  • Eighty-seven percent (87%) of British Columbians felt they have never had a problem as a result of someone else’s gambling.
  • A large majority of study participants (72%) said they would access supports if they had any problems with gambling. 

Many forms of gambling are popular in BC today. Though only a small percentage of people experience problems with gambling, that is still about 120,000 people. The government of BC provides free counselling and other support services such as a toll-free helpline for people who have or think they may have problems with gambling.

2014 British Columbia Problem Gambling Prevalence Study. R.A. Malatest & Associates for the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, Ministry of Finance, British Columbia. October 2014.