The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and the Gambling Harm Reduction Partnership are launching surveys to learn the kind of impact if any, the casino being built in North Bay will have.

The first survey is directed to all residents who are at least 19 years old.

Tawnia Healy, the health unit’s Community Health Promoter, says this survey examines people’s attitudes and behaviours on gambling and is open to gamblers and non-gamblers.

The second survey is aimed at business people to learn what socio-economic impact they expect the casino development and gambling expansion will have.

The results of the surveys will form a benchmark or baseline the health unit will use to measure changes over time in connection with gambling behaviour and attitudes toward the activity that should help them address gambling issues, if any, in the future.

Healy says studies show people who experience moderate to severe problems with gambling and those close to them are more likely to be affected with issues like depression, criminality and suicide than the general population.

Healy emphasized this scenario does not apply to all people facing gambling problems, but it can impact any person from all walks of life.

Healy says one aim is to help ensure people have the right information about gambling and the risks that may follow.

Healy points out that gambling is an emerging public health issue and what the local group is doing is quite unique.

Both studies are available online at www.myhealthunit.ca/gambling and take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

A paper version people can fill out is also available by calling the health unit at 474-1400.

People can access the surveys until December 6th after which the results will be tabulated with the results shared with the public.

Healy says the groups that make up the Gambling Harm Reduction Partnership include people in enforcement, health and social services and the post-secondary sector.

Healy also says if people face gambling issues at this time there is local support for them.

One of those agencies is the Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing.

She says the group offers support to people who are experiencing problem gambling issues as well as friends and family affected by the activity.

In addition, she says there’s a chapter of Gamblers’ Anonymous in North Bay that meets every Monday and more information about the group is available at the health unit website.

Healy says outside of Nipissing, to find a counselling service in Ontario call 1-866-531-2600.