Skip to main content

Recovering problem gambler says province’s efforts to curb addiction 'too little, too late'

Before graduating from Ontario's only residential treatment program for problem gambling, Noah Vineberg said he lost approximately $1-million and relapsed three times.

"I don't think I'd be alive today if it was as easy to gamble today back then as it is now," said Vineberg.

Part of what makes online gambling so addicting, he explained, isn't just the ability to access it the palm of your hand — but also because of the advertisements that feature professional athletes and celebrities to entice users.

Starting on Feb. 28, 2024, most famous personalities will be banned from appearing in these types of ads in Ontario.

But Vineberg, who graduated from the Residential Treatment Program at Windsor's Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency (CPGDD) five years ago, questions whether or not the move will be effective.

Vineberg now serves as a guest speaker for the very same program, sharing his own experience to help future clients. He said the biggest surprise has been seeing the age of some clients coming into the program go down.

"I see kids around my son's age, 14 to 15 that are on FanDuel, DraftKings, all these things," he said. "Whether they're using accounts that their parents or older brothers helped them get, I see them doing fantasy sports all the time."

Diana Gabriele, a certified counsellor at the CPGDD at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, said gambling advertisements are "extremely problematic for most people" in recent years, particularly during sports broadcasts.

"Every single break in the play, there were gambling advertisements. The commentators were talking gambling stats...with very little attention paid to public service announcements and warnings about the harms of gambling," said Gabriele.

"Prior to the last six months or so, I have never seen this proliferation of gambling advertisements in my life. It's been absolutely over the top and appalling,” she added.

The Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency is seen in Windsor, Ont. on Sept. 11, 2023. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)

Gabriele calls the removal of famous personalities from Ontario sports betting advertisements a "good first step."

"The entire industry is designed by ultra-professionals to make gambling as attractive and as addictive as possible," she said. "So I'm really glad the AGCO is taking matters into their own hands and making the regulatory changes needed to protect our young people and hopefully to protect other populations of people who are at risk.”

But for Vineberg, it's “too little, too late.”

"I think it would have made an impact if they had listened to all the advice of other countries and everything going into it and not allowed it in the first place," said Vineberg, who added the province should not be delaying the move until February of 2024.

"They're going to wait until most of the sporting season this year is done,” he said. “There's no way they're doing it before the NFL [starts]...I like that they're doing it. But, come on, who are you fooling?"

Athletes like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid and Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky have featured prominently in recent digital sports betting advertisements.

At Windsor's Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency, staff told CTV News Windsor the number of people seeking help has doubled since the start of the pandemic.

The centre sees groups of clients stay 24/7 for three consecutive weeks. According to Gabriele, it’s the only centre in Ontario that offers weeks of overnight stays to help clients curb their addiction to problem gambling.

For people struggling with online gambling addiction, Gabriele suggests a simple trick: immediately texting a loved one whenever the urge to participate in online gambling is triggered.

"The person will distract themselves with a connection to someone that they truly love and care about because it reminds them of why they are living this life of sobriety," said Gabriele.

"If you find yourself experiencing the urge to want to gamble, our number is 519-254-2112. We can get you in front of a counselor with information and guidance within 48 hours,” she said. Top Stories

Ontario doctors disciplined over Israel-Gaza protests

A number of doctors are facing scrutiny for publicizing their opinions on the Israel-Hamas war. Critics say expressing their political views could impact patient care, while others say that it is being used as an excuse for censorship.

'No concessions' St-Onge says in $100M a year news deal with Google

The Canadian government has reached a deal with Google over the Online News Act that will see the tech giant pay $100 million annually to publishers, and continue to allow access to Canadian news content on its platform. This comes after Google had threatened to block news on its platform when the contentious new rules come into effect next month.

Live updates

Live updates Hamas frees 10 Israeli women and children, 4 Thai nationals

Ten Israeli women and children and four Thai nationals held captive in Gaza were freed by Hamas, and Israel followed with the release of a group of Palestinian prisoners Thursday. It was the latest exchange of hostages for prisoners under a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza war. Two Russian-Israeli women were also freed by Hamas in a separate release.


opinion Don Martin: With Trudeau resignation fever rising, a Conservative nightmare appears

With speculation rising that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will follow his father's footsteps in the snow to a pre-election resignation, political columnist Don Martin focuses on one Liberal cabinet minister who's emerging as leadership material -- and who stands out as a fresh-faced contrast to the often 'angry and abrasive' leader of the Conservatives.

Stay Connected