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January 08, 2022

Are older people more likely to become problem gamblers?

For millions of Canadians, buying lottery tickets, betting on the horses or feeding the slots is nothing more than a fool’s tax that raises billions for provincial treasuries. For many others, however, gambling is a serious soul-shattering addiction that's tough to be beat.

And the older you get, the bigger the potential problem, research suggests. Some 68% of Canadian seniors gamble, and around 2.1% have moderate to severe gambling-related problems, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Seniors gamble for the same reasons — to have fun, make money, curiosity — that drive most casino visitors.

However, with much more time on their hands, some older people use gambling as a way to escape their everyday problems: loneliness, the loss of a spouse, or the stressful demands of distant family.

“The new face of problem gambling in America has become a senior woman who has lost a spouse or become alienated from her children, but has embraced slot machines and quite rapidly develops an addiction,” maintains Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

It's not a uniquely 'female' problem, however. Ask Tim Finn, a 65-year-old who came close to the brink before quitting cold turkey.

“I learned that I saw gambling as a way to make money — which is not a good thing at all,” says Finn. “Very, very few gamblers end up in the plus side of the ledger — although most will tell you they do. Gamblers are notorious liars, because mainly they’re lying to themselves.”

Are there any older problem gamblers in your family? Has this always been an issue or did it start later in life?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money




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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...