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Breaking the Gambling Addiction in Canada

Facing our growing Canadian gambling addiction

Posted by Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird | Feb 8, 2023 | The Neighbourhood      

Facing our growing Canadian gambling addiction

Neighbourhood ~

Facing our growing Canadian gambling addiction

By Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird

You can bet that the increase in gambling is harming many Canadian families.  We have personally seen many marriages break up.  Wives are not happy to lose their houses to their husband’s gambling addiction. The Bible in 1 Tim 6:9 warns against falling into the trap of temptation, and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

A devastating earthquake struck southeast Turkey on February 6, killing more than 5,000 people. Turkish Christian Fellowship, partnered with Intercede International, has put together a plan to help earthquake survivors in that region.

Since the COVID restrictions were implemented in 2020, those gambling four or more times a week has increased from 23 percent to 32 percent.  Online gambling has gone from 62 percent to 78 percent for gamblers.  Ruin & destruction for many has been multiplied through these online gambling apps.

Many gambling addictions begin in the teenage period when the brain is not fully developed. Young adults aged 18 to 24 are more likely to take part in risky gambling behaviour. College students have a much higher gambling rate than the general population.  Imagine the debt load that many college students incur on their student loans from online gambling.  The most popular form of Canadian gambling is lottery tickets, seen by many as relatively harmless.

Since Pierre Trudeau legalized gambling in 1969, the provincial governments have been annually making billions from gambling. No wonder that it has been called another tax grab on the poor and most vulnerable.  

Female gamblers average $15,000 of debt. The average debt generated by men addicted to gambling ranges from $55,000 to $90,000. With so many young men indebted to shady loan sharks, it is no wonder that property theft is on the rise.

We have been numbed in our country to the evils of gambling addiction. As it says in 1 Timothy 6:10, the love of money is the root of evil. We have personally seen gambling cause people to wander from the faith and pierce themselves with many griefs. Many in the Christian program Celebrate Recovery often credit the power of the Holy Spirit as vital to getting free from their uncontrollable obsession with gambling. As well, Gamblers Anonymous has helped many get free from this intense craving.

One of the most important books for helping people understand the gambling addiction is Dostoevsky’s The Gambler. Ironically, he wrote it because he needed to pay his gambling debts and avoid losing control over publishing future books through a crooked publisher. His Christian faith helped him eventually break an all-consuming roulette habit that was bankrupting his family. Roulette has been a huge problem in Russia, particularly in the military. Could Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine be seen as his playing Russian roulette with the West?

Alexei, the protagonist in The Gambler, was on a roll at the Roulettenburg Casino.  He commented: “My brows were damp with sweat, and my hands were shaking.”

Gambling gives a buzz similar to cutting oneself, disconnecting oneself temporarily from one’s intense psychological pain. As Alexei also said:

“There arose in me a strange sensation as of a challenge to Fate – as of a wish to deal her a blow on the cheek, and to put out my tongue at her.”

The character Alexei saw this addiction as a madness that seemed to come upon him. Perhaps that is why Step 2 in Gamblers Anonymous talks about a Power greater than our selves restoring us to a normal way of thinking and living. Compulsive gambling is stinking thinking.

To Alexei, this strange gambling sensation was a fearful pleasure, leaving him obsessed with a desire to take risks. The two hundred thousand francs ($6.6 million dollars in today’s money) that he won quickly sprouted wings, and flew off to the sky like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:5) Quicker than the prodigal son, Alexei squandered his wealth in Paris with wine, women, and song. Get-rich-schemes never end well. His initial gaming success did not make him happy:

“My life had broken in two, and yesterday had infected me with a habit of staking my all upon a card.”

Serving two masters is a double-minded hell. (Matthew 6:24) Gambling was a living death for Dostoevsky and his character Alexei. Dostoevsky tried for many years before he finally broke his gambling desire. His character in the novel also longed to be free: “When that hour comes, you will see me arise from the dead.” Alexei longed to set things right and be born again!

Our prayer is that many Canadians will come into a new freedom in Christ from the devastation of chronic gambling.


Author: Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird

Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird are the co-authors of Blue Sky, a novel, For Better, For Worse: Discovering the keys to a Lasting Relationship