Anybody who has ever rolled dice on a craps table, or busted a bankroll at blackjack, knows the price of prolonged gambling: it makes you poor, depressed, addicted and unhealthy. But here is something you probably did not know: compulsive gambling also makes you stupid. That is one of the findings in a report released last week on the C$13 billion ($81.8 billion) a year gambling industry in Canada. When asked by Statistics Canada how much they spend every year on gambling, Canadians said C$272 on average. In fact, the true average is four times that much. Gamblers simply do not know how to count. Maybe that's because they spend more on bad bets that they do on education (C$1,007 per year) or on books and magazines. I say 'bad' bets because almost any wager - on a horse, roulette wheel, a card, a bingo number, a slot machine or a lottery - is mathematically unsound. You will lose more often than you win. It is a gamble for you, but a sure thing for the 'house' - whether it's a casino, government or racetrack. The proof is that they take in a lot more than they pay out. In Canada, government gambling profits grew by an astonishing 275 per cent in the past 12 years. That is a statistic that should make any intelligent person stay as far away from a lottery terminal as possible. Instead, the punters are lining up. It's a sleazy business. Governments promote their lotteries by exploiting envy: wouldn't it be nice, the ad campaigns say, to be outrageously rich? How can you win if you don't take a chance? What they do not tell you is that government lotteries produce far more misery than millionaires. Quebec, where lotteries began in 1967, has more than 100,000 pathological gamblers. An estimated 3 million Canadians are affected by gambling-related problems. At the River Rock casino in the nearby city of Richmond, weekend nights are pandemonium. The music of a thousand slot machines is deafening; you can wait two or three hours for a seat at one of the 25 Texas Hold-Em tables; and blackjack places are at a premium. One gambler in every 20 has an addiction problem. Politicians like Alberta Premier Ralph Klein say gambling is a bonanza for charities, who share in the profits. But he ignores the ugly secret of legalised gambling: in gross numbers, fully a third of those profits come from the people who don't know when to stop. The big losers - the addicts - are the ones who fill government treasuries. Says gambling researcher Bill Clark: 'To have a government that picks at this weakness and counts on it for revenue, that's a sad state.'