Students gambling online despite awareness programs

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, almost three out of four Canadians aged 10 to 19 engage in some form of gambling. (Photo by: Justin-Barry Mahoney)

John Joseph Sabattis, a 20-year-old who studies office management at the Nova Scotia Community College in Halifax, is an avid online poker player. He gambles on American servers even though he is not of legal age to gamble in the United States.

Usually triggered by emotional distress or boredom, Sabattis can spend up to three hours a week playing online poker using pre-paid credit cards he purchases at the local drugstore.

When gambling online, he purposely zooms past the site's disclaimers but says that he would like to have something in place "to make it more rational" for him to play, to make him think about his decision to gamble to counter his impulse.

On a good day, Sabbatis can limit his spending to $20. On a bad one, he can spend up to $100. Sabattis says that gambling online has affected his sleep and study patterns.

When it comes to online gambling-awareness programs for young people in Nova Scotia, parents are encouraged to download a program from the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation's website called BetStopper; a free Internet application that blocks children from visiting gambling websites when using the family computer.

But what about Nova Scotia students who access online gambling sites using their own personal computers or wireless devices?

The corporation recognises that youth and university students spend a large majority of their time on wireless devices that may come loaded with gambling applications, or can be used to download gambling applications. But it doesn't offer a gambling-awareness application geared specifically to students who gamble on websites outside Nova Scotia's jurisdiction.

On Oct. 14, the corporation announced it was not going to offer any online gambling. Robyn McIsaac, vice-president for prevention programming, explained that the corporation doesn't want to deal with offshore or out-of-province servers when it comes to online gambling. Ironically, you can purchase lottery tickets and play ibingo or Texas Hold'em Poker on the website of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation's, of which the NSGC is a shareholder.

Rather, the its youth gambling-awareness programs focus on risks related to tangible forms of gambling, such as bingo games, card games and lottery tickets. These are the predominant types of youth gambling, McIsaac says, and this can be attributed in part to parents giving lottery tickets as Christmas gifts.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 70 per cent of Canadians aged 10 to 19 engage in some form of gambling.

William Shead, an associate professor at Mount Saint Vincent University who specialises in youth gambling, recently analysed Internet gambling habits in American university students. From the sample he surveyed, Shead concluded that poker "is the predominant online gambling activity."

For gambling-awareness aimed at university students, the gaming corporation works with the Responsible Gaming Council, a Canadian non-profit organization. The council uses Know the Score (kts2), an interactive display that goes from campus to campus across the country, to explain gambling risks.

The kts2 kiosk was on display at Mount Saint Vincent University and Dalhousie University this fall during the province's gambling awareness week. Students can win scholarships and iPads just by playing kts2.


Comments on this story are now closed

I find it amazing that children at the age of 10yrs are gambling. I can't even imagin gambling crossing my mind when I was that age. I guess for all the good the intrnet does in the world, it has many bad sides too.

Posted by Dan L. | Dec 8, 2021