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Pandemic leads to increase in online gambling, credit counsellors say


When casinos closed and people stayed home to self-isolate during the pandemic, some gamblers turned to online gaming to place their bets.

Credit Canada said it has noticed an increase of clients coming to them for financial help who blame online gambling as at least part of their financial problems.

“They can do it on their phone from anywhere. They don't have to drive to a casino so the ease with which people can gamble online has made it a lot more problematic,” said Bruce Sellery, the CEO of Credit Canada.

Some warning signs of a gambling problem include frequently borrowing money, difficulty paying monthly bills, taking cash advances from credit cards and hiding gambling activity from your partner.

“For so many clients we are dealing with, they are keeping it from the people that they love and then suddenly they can't manage the debt anymore and have to have these excruciating painful conversations with friends and family," said Sellery. 

As casinos reopened, the long-term impact of gambling online during the pandemic is not yet known, but addiction experts say the ease at which it can be done is problematic for older and younger people too. 

“Our service providers have said it has been an increasing concern, but also that the issues are a little more severe,” said Lorri Lowe, Executive Director of ConnexOntario. 

ConnexOntario is a provincially funded agency that provides information for anyone dealing with gambling, drugs, alcohol or mental health issues. Anyone dealing with a gambling problem whether it’s the gambler, a family member or another professional seeking help can reach out for resources.

“We are a free and confidential service with live agents available 24/7, 365 days a year and we are ready to connect people to these services," said Lowe.

CTV News Toronto reached out to Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and a spokesperson told us “OLG a is leader in promoting responsible gambling, featuring player tools and educational materials from our globally recognized PlaySmart program. Ontario’s rate of problem gamblers is 0.3 per cent, among the lowest in the country.” 

“OLG is a world leader in responsible gambling, twice awarded best overall responsible gaming program by the World Lottery Association first in 2014 and again in 2018. Top Stories

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