Max Shona was twenty two years old when he realized he had a gambling problem. The young man would spend hours gambling online at poker rooms and then hours soon turned into days. The young Toronto native has now turned his gambling experience into a documentary which focuses on the impact and experiences of gambling of his generation.
The film is titled Deal Me In and it was produced by a group of students of the Youth Voices Gambling Project which is locate at the University of Toronto. The film was created last year and it has already gained quite an audience as the film has appeared in film festivals and gambling awareness workshops around the country.
Shona began gambling in high school with $5 poker games and soon moved to the internet where playing poker and gambling is all too easy. That was when he started to see his habit get out of control. Shona commented: “I went to online gambling, which is the devil. It’s probably the worst thing in the world. It’s so accessible….and you just don’t cash out.”
Shona is one of a group of young people who spoke out in the movie which tries to show young people the dangers of gambling. Nikita Andreev a student at the university worked on the film and stated it was always hard to hear from young people who had lost it all.
Andreev says he knew of people who gambled online before starting this project but not the huge effect it can have on people. He commented: “IT’s rising in popularity more than other forms. You don’t even have to leave your room. He went on to say the convenience of gambling at the computer screen made it easier for young people to cover it up.
The film recently debuted at the University of Toronto film festival and it is now showing in Sault, St Maria, and Ontario. The film is hoping to be considered for the Hot Docs international film festival which takes place in Toronto.
“We’ve had a fantastic response,” says film team co-coordinator Jennifer Reynolds. “It works as a really good stepping point with conversations you can have afterwards.”Reynolds also commented that problem gambling with 18 to 24 year olds is growing and online betting has not been researched as heavily as other forms of gambling.
Andreev commented: “We were not trying to just denounce gambling as an evil thing. The main intention was just to educate people to the fact that gambling does exist among youth. We know it can be addicting and it’s possible to get help.”
It is not surprising that this film has been successful and received great reviews. Everyone should know that online gambling can be addictive just as any other pastime can be addictive. Anyone who gets involved with online poker or other methods of gambling online should be aware of the signs of an addiction and where to go for help. Most online poker rooms offer help to those who may need it. The online poker rooms offer options for those who feel they are addicted so they can seek help.