The phenomenon affects men just as much as women and, surprisingly, affects a greater proportion of young people (12-17 years of age) than adults. It is estimated that 2.8% of young people from 12 to 17 are problem gamblers, whereas the proportion in the general population is 2.6%.
In the words of Mr Richard Grimard, executive director of the Centre de santé du Pontiac, "Gambling addiction is an issue that was rarely encountered in the past. Since the arrival of casinos, and especially the installation of video lottery terminals, the problem is much more in evidence, due in part at least to the greater accessibility of such machines."
It is becoming more and more common to see men and women squander the family possessions in these machines. At the end of the day, it is the spouse, children, immediate family and friends who pay.
According to Mrs Anne Paquin, director general of the Caisse populaire Desjardins de Fort-Coulonge, "We are confronted more and more with applications for debt restructuring, mortgage roll-over and other forms of borrowing that are not justified by the economic context. In a community like ours, everybody knows everyone else. We see the distress caused to the families and friends of persons whose gambling habits have become excessive. This is why we have decided to unite our efforts with those of the Centre de santé du Pontiac to try to eradicate this phenomenon."
The program will be developed by the health centre’s Adults-Mental Health team, which will focus first of all on promotion and prevention. Tools such as pamphlets, placemats, short questionnaires and other materials will be placed in strategic spots in the Pontiac. Target groups (Caisse employees, human resources managers, employees of bars and restaurants) will also receive training covering three key areas: identification of players with potential gambling problems, approach, and referral to appropriate resources.
There will be a round of presentations, starting in the fall, in schools, social clubs, workplaces, etc., to create greater awareness of the risks and consequences of gambling.
If this partnership, which is a first in the Outaouais, enables one family in every village with a pathological gambler in their midst to escape hunger and be adequately clothed, we will know that we are headed in the right direction.
For information: Paul Drouin
Centre de santé Pontiac