Gambling is one of the oldest human activities, in all societies; man has devoted himself to all kinds of games of chance. The recognition of psychopathological manifestations including diagnosis and treatment options for compulsive players is on the other hand, very recent. It is only in the 80's that the American Psychiatric Association had recognized pathological gambling as a mental problem.

Definition of Pathological Gambling

The American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling (DSM IV -1994) as:

Maladjusted practise, persistent and repetitive playing, noticeable through at least five of these manifestations:

  • Preoccupation for the game (for instance preoccupied by the memories of past bets or provisional upcoming attempts, or thoughts of how to find ways to get money to bet).
  • Need to play with large sums of money in order to attain a desired state of excitement.
  • Repeated efforts in vain to control, reduce or stop the gambling practise.
  • Agitation or irritability during the attempts to reduce or stop the gambling practise.
  • Plays to escape difficulties or to heal feelings of powerlessness, guilt, anxiety, and depression.
  • After having lost money due to betting, returns often to play in order to "save face
  • Lies to family, therapist, or others to conceal the real seriousness of gambling habits.
  • Commits illegal acts, as in falsifications, frauds, thefts or embezzlement to finance the gambling practise.
  • Puts in danger or loses an important relationship, job or possibilities to pursue an education, or career because of gambling.
  • Relies on others to obtain money and to be bailed out of desperate financial situations due to gambling.

Pathological Gambling and Drug Addiction

Such criteria resemble those proposed in the definition for psychotropic addictions.

Comparative table on the similarities

  Pathological Gambling Drug Addiction
Preoccupation Constant obsession with the desire to play. Obsession in the procurement of psychotropic substance.
Climb Increase betting in order to attain a desired state of exhilaration. Increase in the dosage in order to obtain the desired intoxification.
Weaning Agitation or irritability in the attempts to reduce or stop. Tremors, sweats, anxiety during the attempts to reduce or stop.
Denial Concealment of the seriousness of the gambling problem, even though difficulties increase. Continuation of the substance, even though physical and psychological problems arise.
Persistence Persistent desire to control the outcome of the game. Persistent desire to control the substance.
Repercussion Impact on the financial, social, family and professional levels. Impact on the financial, social, family and professional levels.

Table excerpt from the information bulletin published by the Centre de readaptation Domremy Mauricie/Centre-du-Quebec: Info toxico Domremy Mauricie/Centre-du-Quebec. Nov. 1998. Vol.10, No.2.

Gamblers, all troubled individuals?

Not all gamblers are "pathological"; it can be useful to distinguish the different types of players in order not to stigmatize those who enjoy gambling.

  • The pathological gambler increases the time spent betting and the frequency in which he plays. He becomes intolerant when he loses and bets more and more in order to win back his losses. He is constantly preoccupied with the game, similar to a state of longing. On the financial, interpersonal, and professional level negative consequences become more and more significant. He lies about his betting habits, neglects his responsibilities, and can start stealing and embezzling in order to continue playing.
  • The serious social gambler: winning or losing is a question of honour for this kind of gambler; he devotes time and energy in betting, all to control the way he places his bets. In spite of, he always feels strong negative reactions when he loses
  • The professional gambler: by definition, gambling is his job; he controls the time spent playing and does not exceed his limits. The risks are calculated and he is not looking to "save face"
  • The occasional gambler: he bets to have fun, the game provides him with some excitement, and the game does not take up all of his free time: the time spent working, his family or his friends all take top priority.
  • The problem gambler finds refuge through gambling after intense negative feelings from work, with his family, or with personal relationships. He loses often, but can stop for many months. This person is characterized as having difficulties solving his problems or ending conflicts.

The gambling figures

  • " 96% ofthe population and 93% of gamblers do not develop symptoms or problems manifesting in regards to gambling. 43% of poker machine players develop such symptoms.
  • 2% of the population are classified as problem gamblers (3 or 4 symptoms) or pathological (5 symptoms).
  • Within gamblers, the most at risk individuals of developing symptoms are people on their own, who make less than 40 000$ per year and who possess weak relative schooling.
  • The individuals who are most at risk of becoming problem gamblers or pathological are the younger individuals (the risk decreases with age) and the least educated.

Data provided from CHEVALIER, S. & ALLARD, D. Jeu pathologique et joueurs problematiques - Le jeu a Montreal. Regie regionale de la sante et des services sociaux de Montreal-Centre, Direction de la sante publique, Montreal, 2001.


La Maison Claude-Bilodeau
pour joueurs compulsifs
717 rue St-Alfred C.P. 459
Sainte-Marie de Beauce, Québec
Canada G6E 3B7

Gamblers Anonymous (Montréal)

Gamblers anonymous, international service office

To find the resource best suited for your needs, call:

Gambling, help and reference
Bilingual service, confidential and anonymous, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

To help you to:

  • Find an attentive ear and to obtain pertinent information;
  • Break the dependency to games of chance and money (gambling)
  • Measure the consequences of pathological gambling
  • Know the resources available in your region

Montreal and surroundings: (514) 527 0140

Elsewhere in Québec: 1 800 461 0140