Gamblers who can’t afford it lose the most

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Concordia professor Sylvia Kairouz says governments are profiting from a largely underprivileged group. The majority of gamblers try their luck only on occasion and tend not to risk significant sums.

But a recent international study shows that a small number of problem gamblers account for most of the money spent in casinos, video lottery terminals and sports tracks.

Kairouz and her colleagues in Germany and France published a paper on gambling habits in the Journal of Business Research.

They found that even though Quebec, France and Germany have different gambling cultures and
favoured modes of gambling, spending was always concentrated among small groups.

“The strength of this study lies in the ability to replicate our data in three separate cultures,” says Kairouz, associate professor of Sociology and Anthropology. She holds the research chair on gambling at Concordia. Researchers found that problem gamblers tend to be drawn to specific types of games. Lotteries had the lowest rate of problem gamblers.

In Quebec, slot machines, including video lottery terminals, are by far the biggest draw, followed by table games and poker.

In Quebec, she says, video lottery terminals are disproportionately found in less economically privileged areas. “We are making them more accessible to people with lower incomes and more adversity in their lives.”

“We hope that this study is an eye-opener for decision-makers and gambling regulators,” she says. “It provides good information for people working in prevention, which has to be more targeted and appropriate for specific at-risk groups.”

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