Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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VLTs in Quebec

VLTs in Quebec

Montreal and Laval, QC
VLTs were first introduced in Quebec in 1993. Ten years later, in 2003, the net income of the Société des loteries vidéo du Québec was $706 million—over half of Loto-Quebec’s total net income.1 As stipulated by federal legislation, Loto-Quebec retains all ownership of VLTs and requires owners of alcohol-serving establishments to apply for VLT licences through the Régie des alcohols, des courses, et des jeux (RACJ).

Mapping VLTs
Determining the relationship of VLT location to neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES) reveals much about the impact of gambling. Gilliland and Ross (2005) utilized data from the RACJ to map locations of VLTs in Montreal and Laval, and then looked at the SES of the neighbourhoods where they found VLTs.1 To characterize neighbourhoods, they created an index of “borough distress” using 1996 Canada Census data about unemployment, low education attainment, and single-parent housing.

Overall, Gilliland and Ross found that greater prevalence of VLTs, higher rates of adoption (the percentage of establishments with VLT licences), and greater density of VLTs correlated strongly with lower socioeconomic conditions (Figure 1). The correlation between low SES and greater prevalence of VLTs is no doubt partly because lower income areas often have more commercial establishments, including those that serve alcohol, than are permitted in high income areas. The researchers charted a definite gradient in the rate of VLT adoption according to borough distress. They also demonstrated that borough education level could account for 50% of the variation in the rate of VLT adoption using a bivariate regression analysis.

Impact on Youth
In another study, Wilson and colleagues (2006) found that VLTs in Montreal and Laval were more prevalent near schools located in socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods than near schools located in more affluent neighbourhoods.2 As the median household income of school neighbourhood decreases, the number of VLTs within 500 m of a high school increases (Figure 2).

A large survey administered in 2003 through the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours at McGill University investigated individual and environmental factors associated with youth gambling.3 Almost one-tenth (9.4%) of high school students surveyed reported playing VLTs in the past year. Over one-third (39.8%) of students who played VLTs reported gambling on a weekly basis. While male and female students were equally likely to report gambling, male students reported playing VTLs more than twice as often as female students.

Students who played VLTs were more likely to report that their friends played VLTs. They were also more likely to have consumed alcohol in the last year and have smoked or used drugs in the past year. Students who played VLTs were also more likely to gamble alone and not go home after school. Students attending schools in neighbourhoods with more access to VLTs were nearly 40% more likely to use VLTs when compared with students in areas with less access to VLTs.

The Quebec research findings confirm that a number of individual, physical, and social environmental factors influence gambling behaviours. Both adult and youth gamblers are affected by the availability of VLTs, local gambling culture, and peer influence. Having recognized the vulnerability of youth and established there are more gambling opportunities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, public health officials and researchers must continue to explore the costs of VLTs.

  • 1. a. b. Gilliland JA, Ross NA. Opportunities for video lottery terminal gambling in Montréal: an environmental analysis. Can J Public Health. 2005;96(1):55-59.
  • 2. Wilson DH, Gilliland J, Ross NA, et al. Video lottery terminal access and gambling among high school students in Montréal. Can J Public Health. 2006;97(3):202-206.
  • 3. Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling. Canadian Gambling Digest 2008-2009. 2009.