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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

December 18, 2006

Scratch Tickets Make Dangerous Stocking Stuffers, Says U of G Researcher

Scratch tickets may seem like the ideal stocking stuffer, but Santa’s gift could begin or fuel a gambling problem, says a University of Guelph researcher.

“Young people can’t legally buy scratch tickets on their own, but many parents and grandparents put tickets in children’s stockings, and that could begin a lifelong gambling addiction,” said Katharine Papoff, a master’s student in family relations who is studying scratch tickets purchased by baby boomers. “Problem gambling is often associated with needing to chase a winning feeling, and we still don’t know how that starts.”

More than a third of the revenue from gambling in Ontario, or $2.3 billion, comes from ticket gambling, but many people don’t consider buying tickets as gambling. “If they don’t recognize themselves as gamblers, they won’t consider excessive purchasing as problem gambling,” said Papoff, who interviewed counsellors working with recovering gamblers, who often have ticket-purchase problems.

“Ticket-purchase gambling is so accessible and so affordable that most people don’t see it as gambling, they see it as purchasing. Problem gambling counsellors have told me that recovering ticket gamblers often can’t get consumer goods like gas and milk because they can’t go into a store without buying one or two or a dozen tickets.”

The 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey revealed that 26 per cent of baby boomers who admit to spending money on things like lottery tickets, instant win/scratch tickets and horse races say they aren’t gamblers.

“This survey shows that a large chunk of the ‘not gambling’ group buys tickets anywhere from daily to six times a week,” said Papoff, whose study is funded by the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre.

Unlike casino gamblers, ticket gamblers are virtually invisible because it takes no extra time, energy nor special location to buy tickets. Yet 2004 research in Ontario shows that 20 per cent of the $2 billion in revenue from ticket gambling is coming from problem gamblers, estimated to be five per cent of the population.

“People just don’t see buying a ticket as a big expenditure, but the people who have a problem are obviously spending lots of money on lottery and scratch tickets,” said Papoff.

Not everyone who buys a ticket is going to have a problem with ticket gambling, she said. “But tickets have been called ‘paper slot machines’ because they have features of slot machines that can promote problem gambling.” Like slots, scratch tickets are inexpensive, there’s a rapid turnover, and because you can immediately find out if you’ve won or lost, you can chase your losses by buying another ticket – in much the same way you pull the slot machine handle again, she said.

“There are many people who don’t live near casinos or slot machines, so if they’re looking for the thrill of a possible win, they’re limited to tickets,” she said.

“I think there needs to be huge public awareness around the fact that this is something that’s taking away your disposable income with virtually no odds of getting anything back.”

Katharine Papoff
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
519-824-4120, Ext. 56764, or

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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