We are very grateful to the participants in our research, as they have shared with us very personal and difficult stories that have helped us understand the complex pathways that have contributed to their housing and gambling concerns. The following story is one example.
This middle-aged participant told us about how he'd come to Canada as a young child. He shared that his early life had been difficult and "traumatic," marked by homelessness and family violence. His family lost their home because of his father's alcoholism and gambling. He shared that he felt sad because he eventually ended up struggling with the same issues his father had.
Like many other men in our study, he began gambling as a minor. Around the same time, at age 16, he started drinking—something he learned through his family and friends. He was taken with sports gambling; he was good at it, and he enjoyed it at the time.
I started gambling when I started drinking. So, that would be at the age of 16, and I went on with drinking, I went on with gambling . . . I'd gamble on a daily basis. I used to like [bet] on sporting events like basketball, or hockey, baseball, soccer, football. I'm a football fanatic.
In order to continue his gambling activities as a youth under the age of 18, he engaged in strategies with older individuals who facilitated his gambling.
When I was that age, I couldn't gamble or drink, so I had to . . . pay someone to play for me. So, they'd have to get something out of it. So, I'd have to give them some money so they'd play for me, because you ain't going to get something for free, that's for sure. I'd have to get people that I drank with to buy the tickets, because then I'd bribe them by buying alcohol. That would work.
Our participant said that for him, drinking and gambling go "hand in hand," and he has struggled with both interrelated addictions throughout his life. As an adult, his interrelated gambling and alcoholism has caused him to experience many financial troubles—with dire consequences, including the loss of his home and estrangement from his wife and child.
So, the gambling actually, I guess, caused me to drink more because of a lot of stress, mental stress, and that's when it got worse. So, because of that, that's why I lost all my possessions. Being homeless is not a fun place, that's for sure. I've had to sleep on benches. I had to sleep in parks. I've had to sleep on people's floors, people's couches . . . I also had to take money from my friends, so-called friends, to pay people from gambling. So, a lot of financial hardship from getting into that situation.
He has entered treatment for alcoholism and gambling. His experience taking part in the research with a peer interviewer was beneficial for him. Talking about his experiences helped lead him to realize how his addictions intersected.
So, it's kind of good that you guys came that time, because I was still in pre-treatment, which was here when you guys came by here for the survey. So, that's when a light bulb went off in my head. Not only am I an alcoholic, I also have a gambling problem. So, thanks to you guys, it worked in my favour. So, I commend you guys for coming here and doing the survey. So, you deserve some credit where credit's due.
The powerful stories these men shared with our research team helped us learn much more about the way in which gambling is experienced in the context of poverty.
Reproduced from: Hamilton-Wright, S., Woodhall-Melnik, J., Guilcher, S.J., Schuler, A., Wendaferew, A., Hwang, S.W. & Matheson, F.I. (2016). Gambling in the landscape of adversity in youth: Reflections from men who live with poverty and homelessness. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13 (9), 854-871. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph13090854