The growing concerns about Canada’s Gen Zers, gambling, and mental health

May 24, 2024 12:07 PM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
May 24, 2024 12:07 PM

One of the concerns that emerged from the Responsible Gambling Council’s three-day Discovery conference in Toronto in March was the susceptibility of the Gen Zer generation to gambling, particularly sports betting, but also high-hold games like slots and bingo.

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According to data from a panelist, Gen Z are between 12 and 27 years old and account for 16 percent of the total population of Canada. The cohort spends an hour and a half per day streaming digital TV or video, plus another two hours per day watching linear TV, since they likely live at home with their Gen X parents. They’ll be cord cutters when they move out.

Plus, their attention span is down to eight seconds, a small window of opportunity to connect with them. And they pay attention to advertising. According to data presented at the panel, 39% agree that advertising influences their purchases, an increase over the Millennial generation.

More and more Gen Zers are getting into the thrill of sports betting. Also from that panel: 28 percent of Gen Z have gambled online over the past year, equating with 1.7 million young adults making bets with real money. Most of their online gambling spend is on slots and bingo, but 20 percent of the total Gen Z betting population is placing sports bets. They’re consuming a lot of audio content and most are on Facebook and Instagram for sports betting.

More alarming from the study talked about that day, Gen Zers are feeling burdened economically, so 71% of them said that based on the current cost of living, they can’t save enough money and 54% are looking for a side hustle to make money on top of their regular income. Fully 41% of Gen Z sports bettors admit that betting on sports isn’t a good way to make money; 15% have bet more money than they can afford to lose and 32% saying they feel guilty about sports betting.

The massive implications in terms of mental health shine a bigger spotlight on the need for action in terms of responsible-gambling messaging from the industry. This is also a particularly timely issue, with Mental Health Week earlier this month.

CDC Gaming Reports caught up with Daniel Umfleet, president of the Kindbridge Research Institute and the founder and chief executive officer of Kindbridge Behavioral Health, to address the topic. Umfleet has extensive experience in mental-health-care strategies, client engagements with major organizations, and advocacy work in state legislatures and has been outspoken on gambling and its potential for addiction, in part focusing on what’s going on in Ontario.

CDC Gaming Reports: I was listening to a presentation made by Gen Zers about gambling. One of the presenter’s comments was that some Gen Zers look at sports betting as a way to augment their income during these tough economic times, with people struggling to pay bills and not use credit cards. How much of a concern is this for you? 

DU: This is a significant concern. Gen Z’s tendency to look for alternative income sources, coupled with financial pressures, might lead them to view sports betting as a viable financial strategy. This mindset can increase the risk of gambling addiction and financial instability, especially without robust financial-literacy and responsible-gambling measures.

CDC: What kind of an impact are high-level bans around Jontay Porter and charges against Shohei Ohtani’s translator having on Gen Zers’ gambling habits? Positive or negative? 

DU: High-profile bans and charges, like those against Jontay Porter and Shohei Ohtani’s translator, likely have a negative impact on Gen Z’s gambling habits, which means it’s probably having a positive impact overall on their financial stability and mental health. These incidents highlight the risks and consequences of gambling-related misconduct, potentially discouraging gambling among Gen Z by raising awareness of its pitfalls.

CDC: With their knowledge of technology, how concerned are you at the number of Gen Zers who are turning to gambling? What are you seeing at your end in terms of potential issues/challenges? 

DU: The tech-savvy nature of Gen Z makes them susceptible to online gambling’s allure. The potential issues include increased gambling-addiction rates, financial instability, and mental-health challenges. The ease of access to online-gambling platforms and targeted advertising further exacerbates these risks. There’s a need for enhanced financial education, responsible-gambling messaging, and mental-health support to mitigate these challenges. We see this population more and more right now and they’re thinking that they know better and can beat the math behind the bets. Then they end up in a downward spiral both financially and mentally.

CDC: In your view have operators and broadcasters balanced responsible-gaming messaging in their advertising in a responsible fashion? 

DU: No. Operators and broadcasters have not balanced responsible-gaming messaging responsibly. The prominence of gambling promotions over responsible-gambling tips raises significant concerns about encouraging responsible-gambling behavior.