The number of Loto-Québec customers who ask it to prohibit them from accessing casinos, gaming halls and the online gaming site via the self-exclusion program continues to increase significantly, reaching new heights since the creation of the program in 1993.
There were nearly 5,300 five years ago. Today, there are more than 8,000, according to the latest data obtained by The duty under the Access to Information Act. We are talking about an increase of more than 50%.
“It’s really a lot,” reacts Sylvia Kairouz, holder of the Research Chair in the Study of Games at Concordia University.
Does this mean there are more players with gambling problems? Loto-Québec assures us that no. “The fact that there are more people taking advantage of a program like this, I think that can be reassuring. They don’t wait until they no longer have the means, until they’re at the end of their rope,” explains the specialist in the responsible gaming department of Loto-Québec, Isabelle Martin.
She affirms that the state corporation does a lot of promotion around the tools put in place to limit the loss of control, such as gaming breaks, limits on deposits, time or losses. “So, we cannot say that, because there are more people [qui se prévaut du programme d’autoexclusion]there are more people who have gambling problems,” says Mme Martin.
A “drastic approach”
The specialists consulted by The duty are, however, skeptical. For Sylvia Kairouz, registering for a self-exclusion program constitutes a “drastic step” which generally means that the player has “serious gambling problems”.
“When we talk to them, the players [qui s’inscrivent au programme d’autoexclusion de Loto-Québec] tell us that this meant to them that they were repeatedly unable not to come back and play even though they knew they were mortgaging their house or spending money they could not afford. didn’t have,” explains M.me Kairouz.
Psychologist specializing in pathological gambling at the University of Sherbrooke Andrée-Anne Légaré considers that self-exclusion is not so much a prevention tool as a “last resort” option for players losing control. According to her, those who take advantage of it represent only “the tip of the iceberg”.
An observation shared by Elisabeth Papineau, from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ). “It’s for people who have already realized that they have a problem with excess and it’s really a minority of players who will make this reflection. »
It’s for people who have already realized that they have a problem with excess and it’s really a minority of players who will make this reflection.
All three recognize that greater awareness of responsible gaming surely has an effect on this marked increase in the number of players who take advantage of the self-exclusion program, but believe that this also reflects a probable increase in gambling problems. “Science cannot, at this moment, decide between these two interpretations, but it is certain that it is probably both at the same time,” summarizes Sylvia Kairouz.
More harmful online gambling
Loto-Québec confirms that the increase in customers registered in the self-exclusion program follows that of online gaming. However, online gambling is “more harmful” than casino gambling, experts believe. Not only is it accessible at all times, but it is designed to be more attractive. It also allows customers to play alone, avoiding the gaze of others, and to consume heavily, which can impair their judgment.
The latest prevalence study on compulsive gambling in Quebec, carried out by the M teamme Kairouz in 2012 revealed that 1.5% of players suffer from gambling addiction problems. By adding players at risk, we are talking about a range which is between 2 and 5%, according to studies, specifies Mme Kairouz. “On the other hand, with online gaming, we are talking about two to three times more problems. »
Experts consider that Loto-Québec is making “laudable efforts”, but repeat that the state-owned company is caught “between the tree and the bark” and ask Quebec to go further to protect players.
“For more than ten years, researchers have been recommending [la création d’] an independent committee to monitor the repercussions of the game and propose the best ways to avoid the consequences [négatives associées au jeu de hasard et d’argent], argues Elisabeth Papineau, of the INSPQ. But this is not yet proven. »
With Dave Christmas