Expansion of gambling in Canada: implications for health and social policy

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Canada experienced a dramatic increase in legalized gambling in the 1990s, primarily because of governments' need to increase revenue without additional taxation. This article examines gambling from a public health perspective. The major public health issues include gambling addiction, family dysfunction and gambling by youth. Debates have emerged about the health, social and economic costs and benefits of gambling. Stakeholder and social policy groups have expressed concern about the impact of expanded gambling on the quality of life of individuals, families and communities. Epidemiological studies show that the prevalence of gambling in the general adult population is low but increasing. Of particular concern is the high though steady prevalence of gambling among youth. New technologies have been linked to gambling-related problems such as addiction to gambling by video lottery terminals. Gambling by means of the Internet represents another emerging issue. The article concludes with recommendations for health and social policy related to gambling. These recommendations incorporate a broad public health approach to create a strong research program and to balance risks and benefits.

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