Gambling and games of chance
The effects of gambling


A young person who takes drugs or drinks alcohol for the first time does not think that they may one day become addicted. The same is true for gambling and games of chance: they can progressively become a problem without the person being aware of the risks associated with their habits.

When the need to play is constant and difficult to control, a game is no longer just a game. At that point, gambling has become more and more important despite the negative consequences it has on personal, family, and social life.

  • You gamble increasingly frequently
  • You gamble for higher and higher stakes
  • You are unable to keep to your pre-set limits
  • You constantly think of gambling
  • You can’t resist the temptation to gamble
  • Gambling interferes with your studies, your work, and your relationships with friends and family
  • You have gambling-related financial problems (debts)
  • You gamble to win back money you lost
  • You believe you can find tricks to beat the odds
  • You lie to those close to you in order to hide your gambling problem
  • You gamble with the hope of forgetting your problems and feeling better


Magical thinking. Gamblers have magical (false) thoughts that influence their gambling, the risks they take, and the ways in which they estimate their chances of winning. They look for cause-and-effect relationships that will allow them to predict the outcome of games of chance (“I won last Friday, therefore Friday must be my lucky day.”). In addition, coincidences reinforce gamblers’ magical thoughts; winning is attributed to strategies (“I knew I would win by using this set of numbers!”) and losses are attributed to external forces (“I’m not winning because this is not a good deck of cards.”). Gamblers are convinced that they will win one day, and do not want to believe that they have no control over the outcome of the games. They think they can beat the odds and find ways to increase their chances of winning.

The illusion of being in control.
People are first drawn to gambling and games of chance because they see a way of making money very quickly. At that point, they are still aware that games of chance depend strictly on chance. But very soon, the very act of gambling changes their perception of things. Now, they begin to overestimate their probability of winning. And that’s the trap! They think they can come up with strategies that will allow them to beat the odds (by betting on a “lucky” number, by using a “special” pencil, by holding on to a good-luck charm). They feed their illusion of being in control of the game, which increases their interest in gambling — and the amount of money they are willing to invest in it. But strategies have no influence on games of chance. Winning and losing is solely a matter of chance!


Generally speaking, there are three phases to gambling-related problems:

Winning. In the beginning, gamblers claim to win often, and gambling is more and more exciting. They overestimate their chances of winning and bet larger and larger amounts of money. At this stage, gambling does not yet have any major negative consequences on their lives. But it’s only a matter of time...

Now, the gamblers begin to lose, and continue to play in the hope of winning back some of their money. They lie to those around them, borrow money, and may even go so far as to commit illegal acts in order to get money. It’s a vicious circle. They gamble more and more frequently, think only of gambling, and have financial problems that keep getting worse. Their mood changes and they become irritable and isolated; gambling has negative consequences on various aspects of their lives (family, relationship, work, studies). They are not inclined to ask for help, because they believe they can solve their problems by winning.

Gamblers still believe that winning is the solution to their problems. However, their financial difficulties become more and more serious, and they isolate themselves even more. They are in despair, do not know how to find a way out, and are no longer in control of their gambling behaviour. Gambling has completely taken over. They are often depressed and may have dark thoughts. At this stage, some still deny their gambling problem, while others admit that they need help.


Just like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, gambling and games of chance are not harmless, since they can lead to addiction. Gambling can have many negative consequences, including:
  • Financial problems
  • Conflicts in social and family relationships
  • Low self-esteem
  • Isolation
  • Criminal behaviour (theft)
  • Lying
  • Problems at school and at work
  • Physical and mental health problems (stomach pains, depression)


If you think you have a problem with gambling and playing games of chance, here is some advice that may be helpful:
  • Get support from people you trust. Don’t keep your gambling problems and debts a secret.
  • Remember: you cannot predict the outcome of a game of chance. No strategy can beat chance. You have no control over the game’s results.
  • Don’t hesitate to consult a professional or call Tel-jeunes or Gambling: Help and Referral (1-800-461-0140, 24/7).

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