The social and psychological impact of gambling in Québec's Cree communities



Gambling has been a traditional social activity of Aboriginal societies throughout the Americas, including sub-Arctic peoples.

In small isolated communities of the Cree territory, gambling traditionally brought people together in a social activity that redistributed wealth within a closed system. In the past ten to twenty years gaming and gambling activities have increased as the population has grown in size, social complexity and wealth. Intra-community, locally-controlled gambling was focused on local and regional sports teams, numbers games, draws and radio bingos.

Gambling traditionally brought people together in a social activity that redistributed wealth within a closed system.

More recently, a "new" gambling economy, controlled from outside the Cree communities, has developed. This includes the metropolitan casinos of Montreal and Hull, as well as the VLTs of Val d'Or, Chibougoumou and Radisson. Within communities, local stores sell scratch cards and numbers games licensed through Loto-Quebec. VLTs have been installed inside three Cree communities, through lease-use arrangements. The profits from two VLT operations are turned back into community programming, while the third is a privately owned operation.

The objectives of the project were to describe patterns of gambling in relation to demographic, social, psychological and economic factors; to conduct a survey of gambling, addiction and mental health among the Cree using standardized instruments and to examine the relationships between patterns of gambling, substance abuse and associated social and psychological problems.

Our results suggest that interventions for gambling disorders should not focus on gambling alone, but rather the constellation of dysfunctional behaviours that pose a risk to Cree adults.

Main researcher

Kathryn Gill, McGill University

Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: November 2010