Research spotlight – the AGRI National Project: An investigation of gambling in Canada

Research spotlight – the AGRI National Project: An investigation of gambling in Canada

By Anonymous (not verified)

By Carrie A. Leonard, Ph.D., Project Manager

Several jurisdictions have undertaken national studies of gambling including Australia (Productivity Commission, 1999, 2010), the United States (National Gambling Impact and Policy Commission, 1999), the United Kingdom (Gambling Review Body, 2001) and in the European Union (European Commission, 2006).  The value of these landmark investigations is multifaceted. These investigations serve to document the background information pertaining to the provision and participation in gambling, information that can be used as an excellent contextualizing resource for policy makers and researchers. These studies also undertake comprehensive national and regional examinations of the impacts of gambling.  Finally, because of the high profile nature of these investigations and the relevance and importance of their findings, they usually have significant involvement and attention from all the major stakeholders, which, in turn, creates the potential for meaningful policy change. Until now, there had never been a national study of gambling in Canada. This deficit may be due in part to the complexities associated with the interprovincial variation of gambling provision. Nonetheless, the Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI) National Project was designed to fill this void.

The AGRI National Project (ANP) is a three-year project designed and implemented with the aid of a large multi-disciplinary, multi-university, AGRI-based team of researchers combined with co-funding from the Canadian Consortium for Gambling Research, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Addiction, and the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario.  There are three research elements to this investigation:  the national Statistics Canada Survey of 28,000 Canadians; the two-year Online Panel Cohort study of 10,000 Canadians; and the Independent Corroborating Investigations in the form of key informant surveys of major provincial stakeholders, Indigenous leaders, casino patrons, and problem gamblers in treatment.  These project elements have been designed to address each of the 10 research objectives:

  1. Comprehensive documentation of the current legal and regulatory framework for gambling in each province and territory, the types of legal gambling that are provided, gambling revenue and its distribution, harm minimization strategies, and historical gambling and problem gambling prevalence rates.

  2. Establishing current Canadian and provincial prevalence rates of gambling and problem gambling. 

  3. Establishing current Canadian and provincial prevalence of online gambling, regulatory capture of online gambling in each province, use of digital currencies, and a profile of Canadian online gamblers. 

  4. Establishing current attitudes toward gambling and knowledge about gambling in Canada as a function of province, demographic characteristics, and stakeholder group. 

  5. Establishing the level of gambling involvement predictive of future gambling harm to inform the Canadian Low-Risk Gambling Guidelines. 

  6. Creation of a comprehensive profile of indigenous gambling and problem gambling in Canada. 

  7. Creation of a comprehensive profile of Canadian problem gamblers.

  8. Establishing the etiology of problem gambling and problem gambling remission in Canada. 

  9. Establishing the role of legal gambling provision and harm minimization initiatives as predictors of concurrent Canadian and provincial rates of problem gambling and gambling-related harm. 

  10. Establishing the impact of cannabis legalization on gambling behaviour and gambling-related harm in Canada. 

Data collection for ANP began in 2018, starting with the Statistics Canada annual survey (project element 1). In 2018, Statistics Canada included a ‘Rapid Response’ gambling module within the annual component of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), a module that will be used in subsequent iterations of the CCHS. This data will allow our team to establish current Canadian and provincial prevalence rates of gambling (online and in-person), identify the specific types of gambling engaged in and the frequency of that engagement, and identify problem gambling comorbidity profiles.  This data will also allow us to establish whether there are statistically significant differences in these prevalence rates between provinces and between various demographic groups. In addition, this current and validated data of gambling frequency help inform Low-Risk Gambling Guidelines for safe gambling.

The baseline data for the Online Panel Cohort study (project element 2) was also collected in 2018. Therein, 10,000 adults from across Canada were recruited to engage in an extensive survey designed to support and extend the Statistics Canada initiative. Specifically, the Online Panel survey will yield detailed demographic and comorbidity profiles, more comprehensive information about gambling participation including engagement in illegal gambling, attitudes towards gambling and general knowledge about gambling in Canada, gambling related harms and responsible gambling engagement. In addition, as cannabis was legalized across Canada after the administration of the baseline survey, the baseline data in conjunction with the Online Panel follow-up data collection will enable our team to assess any impacts cannabis legalization may have had on gambling behaviour. The follow-up Online Panel data collection is scheduled for summer 2019.

With the first two project elements well underway, the ANP team is now focusing on the third project element, the Independent Corroborating Investigations. These Independent Corroborating Investigations were designed to provide a more qualitative context for the ANP. To accomplish this aim, these investigations will make use of qualitative interviews and targeted surveys of Key Informants. Four distinct Key Informant groups were identified based on their ability to contribute unique perspectives on topics of particular importance to gambling in Canada. Data collection from the following Key Informant groups will begin in April 2019:

  • Gambling Stakeholders. In Canada the stakeholders for gambling include the gambling regulators, the provincial gambling providers, non-government casino providers, the provincial directors of responsible gambling, and problem gambling prevention and treatment administrators in each province.  Given the national scope of this project, it is essential that we solicit and obtain the opinions of these stakeholders. Moreover, understanding the viewpoints of stakeholder will be crucial for the potential implementation of any policy-relevant findings.
  • Indigenous Leaders. This segment of the population deserves special attention for two reasons. First, it may be the case that Indigenous peoples have the highest rates of gambling-related harm and problem gambling in Canada.  Second, in some provinces Indigenous peoples are also involved in the commercial delivery of gambling.  The opinions of Indigenous Leaders from across Canada will therefore contribute to our understanding of commercial gambling provision as well as potential remedies for gambling related harms among Indigenous peoples.
  • Casino Patrons. The majority of harm minimization initiatives and variations in the legal provision of gambling are manifest within Canadian casinos. To aid our understanding about people’s awareness, utilization, and experience with all of the main harm minimization initiatives and the variants of legal gambling in each province, regular casino patrons from across Canada will be surveyed. The information obtained from this key informant group may in turn provide direction for future efforts to increase people’s awareness and utilization of harm minimization. 
  • Problem Gamblers in Treatment. Prevalence of treatment seeking can be determined through our Online Panel project element however, the opinions of this key informant group will be sought to contextualize the process of treatment seeking. Thus, in addition to assessing the pre-treatment awareness and utilization of harm minimization strategies, this group will be asked to provide elaboration on experienced harms, relapse, and recovery. 

Data collection for the Independent Corroborating Investigations project element is set to begin in April 2019 with the Gambling Stakeholders survey followed closely by the commencement of data collection from all other key informant groups. It is anticipated that data collection for all ANP project elements will be completed by December 2019.

More information about the AGRI National Project team, the research initiatives and methodologies, and project progress can be found on our website: https://www.ucalgary.ca/research/national-gambling-study/

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