Gambling and Poverty Research

Current Projects

Optimizing Support and Service Delivery for Problem Gambling Among People Living with Complex Needs

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson and Dr. Sara JT Guilcher

Optimizing Support is a multi-deliverable study designed to give people experiencing problem gambling (PG) and other health and social needs an alternative treatment option.

Firstly, we are created a prototype of a Smartphone app to help people self-manage their problem gambling. Developed in collaboration with Dr. Sara Guilcher’s research team at the University of Toronto, and community partners such as the Good Shepherd Ministries, the Jean Tweed Centre, Fred Victor and the Biomedical Zone, Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, the app is now going into full development and will also be used in problem gambling service delivery.

The prototype was informed by:

Secondly, we used variety of healthcare providers to understand what knowledge, strategies and resources are needed to improve screening and treatment for PG.

Funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Self-Management in the age of Complexity: An eHealth Tool to Support People Experiencing Gambling, Poverty and Homelessness

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson and Dr. Alireza Sadeghian (Ryerson University)

There are significant gaps in Canada’s current mental health and addiction services for people experiencing problem gambling. Problem gambling is often associated with substance use, mental illness, trauma, chronic illness, and disability. There is a strong association between problem gambling, poverty, and homelessness. Addressing these interconnected needs requires an integrated care approach that pairs self-management with service provision, a model which largely does not exist in Canada. Working with community partners and people with lived experience, we are designing, developing, and evaluating a mobile application to support people experiencing problem gambling.

Funded by CIHR/NSERC Collaborative Health Research Projects grant (2019 – 2022).

Completed Projects

A process evaluation of the Gambling Addiction Program in partnership with Good Shepherd Ministries

Principal Investigator: Dr. Flora Matheson 
Agency Lead: Br. David Lynch

Problem gambling is a serious public health issue. The prevalence of problem gambling among people experiencing poverty and homelessness is up to 9 times higher than the general population. Services for people experiencing these concerns and other health needs are scarce. The Good Shepherd Ministries partnered with us to implement a new problem gambling and homelessness intervention program for people experiencing poverty and/or homelessness. The program provides clients with support and services for problem gambling and other co-morbidities, while also offering skills training, goal setting and crisis intervention. We conducted a mixed-methods process evaluation of the Gambling Addiction Program to better understand program features, implementation processes, client experiences, and opportunities for enhancing program impact.

Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation under the Local Poverty Reduction Fund.

Betting on Housing: Women, Problem Gambling and Homelessness

Principal Investigator: Dr. Flora Matheson

Research on problem gambling and homelessness is predominantly male focused. This project is the first in Canada to research gambling concerns among women experiencing homelessness. We collected data to determine the prevalence of problematic gambling among women using shelter services in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. We also interviewed 29 women in each city about their experiences of the relationship between precarious social and financial situations (e.g., single parenthood, interpersonal violence, immigration, debts, and unemployment), marginalization, and vulnerability to problem gambling.

Prevalence of Problem Gambling Among Women Using Shelter and Drop-in Services

Funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Raising Awareness: multi-sector engagement to enhance understanding of gambling and poverty

Principal Investigator: Dr. Flora Matheson

Our team, including a Community Advisory Committee, and four talented students with backgrounds in film, journalism, graphic art and nursing, has co-created multimedia tools to communicate the link between problem gambling and homelessness. These knowledge translation products feature documentary film, visual art, storytelling and a workshop.

We produced:

  • Problem gambling pamphlets for youth and women;
  • An animated whiteboard video developed for and informed by youth who have lived experience with trauma, poverty, and addiction;
  • A digital story about an adult male’s recovery from problem gambling;
  • A learning module for service providers to help them support clients experiencing problem gambling, poverty and homelessness
  • A written feature story about childhood trauma, substance abuse and problem gambling, and finding positivity in recovery.

See them on

Funded by the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO)

Seeking Solutions to Problem Gambling in a Primary Care Organization focused on Health Equity

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson and Dr. Andrew Pinto

In one of our previous studies, we found that many healthcare providers feel uncomfortable screening patients for problem gambling. In this project, we wanted to learn why.

We surveyed healthcare providers at St. Michael’s Hospital to know how they document problem gambling in electronic medical records and how they approach the topic of gambling with their patients. Our questionnaire was also embedded with information about gambling and gambling-related harms to raise their awareness. It assessed whether this information improved their understanding of problem gambling as a health issue, and also inquired about barriers to documentation. We found that the problem gambling documentation rate is 1 per 1000 patients, however, the prevalence of problem gambling in Ontario is estimated to be between 1% to 2.2%. Chart reviews indicated that the embedded gambling screening tool was not used by the Family Health Team Physicians and Allied Health Professionals. Also, health care providers said they would like to change their approach to PG and intended to use gambling screening tools.

This project was funded by the Gambling Research Exchange of Ontario (GREO).

Women Creating Community: Supporting Women to Manage Problem Gambling through Arts-Based Programming

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson and Dr. Janet Parsons

Creative activity is a beneficial approach to recovery that can foster personal and social renewal. It is a known need in service delivery for women experiencing concerns with gambling and isolation. Dr. Janet Parsons and Dr. Flora Matheson led the development of a free art program for women experiencing gambling concerns. The program was delivered by Dr. Clara Juando-Prats and Isabel Fryszberg, and informed by staff at the Jean Tweed Centre and Fred Victor, where the program was delivered.

These exciting weekly workshops were modeled after Isabel Fryszberg‘s art program for people experiencing mental health and substance use concerns, and Dr. Clara Juando-Prats’ art program for marginalized youth. Women were invited to paint, draw, write songs, play music, journal, and create collages in a positive and communal space. The program aimed to reduce gambling-related harms, and promote a shift in identity from “person who gambles” to “artist.” A detailed final report can be found here.

Funded by Gambling Research Exchange of Ontario (GREO).

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