How Problem Gambling Was Nearly The Grinch That Stole Christmas In Waterloo

Written By Matthew Lomon on October 31, 2023
Image of Christmas hat with Grinch shadow for story on how problem gambling nearly was the Grinch that stole the Christmas market in Waterloo

For the second time in three days, an upcoming holiday market in Waterloo Region of Ontario was left in limbo. The reason? Vendor deposits were gambled away by the event organizer.

On Oct. 30, CTV News Kitchener reported that Stacy Cliff cancelled Shopalooza just days after calling off the It’s Christmas Market ahead of its Nov. 12 run date. The event organizer then drafted a Facebook post informing the hundreds of vendors who signed up that she lost their deposits.

She later confirmed in an interview with CTV News that the funds disappeared as a result of her gambling them away.

What Cliff’s social media post said

By all accounts, Cliff was a regular at these kinds of craft events, often serving as the one organizing them.

The operator of Stacy’s Events had cultivated a strong reputation among her peers for her work. However, Cliff shared in her social media post that she also secretly struggled with addiction.

“It is with my most profound apologies that my mental health addiction compiled with my absolute selfishness has created a storm I cannot control,” Cliff wrote.

“So many of you have followed me, had faith and trusted me through good and bad events. I’ve taken that trust, and wors[e], your money, and have done the very worst I can do, which is not putting it where it belongs.”

Due to her problem gambling, Cliff unfortunately put herself and the ones who trusted her in a compromising position.

Her story serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when gambling problems go untreated. There is a plethora of both in-person and discrete responsible gambling resources in Canada for people dealing with addiction.

Shopalooza to proceed with new name and lower registration costs

Following Cliff’s exit, two community members stepped up to keep Shopalooza on the holiday schedule.

Vendor-turned-organizer Debbie Mills, along with Hespeler Legion Branch 272 event coordinator Max Dyke, took the reins to ensure the holiday event was still on.

Mills said she believes most of the vendors who originally signed on are returning for the rebranded event. Now known as the  Christmas Craft Market, Mills and the legion are charging vendors just $10 to enter. During her interview, Mills noted that vendors forwarded Cliff payments between $50 and $250 as an entry fee.

Despite the difficult stretch, the market will take place on Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hespeler Legion Branch 272.

Where to get help in Ontario

With Connex Ontario, problem gamblers can expect confidential help available on multiple platforms 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. You can call toll-free (1-866-531-2600). You can also text (247247). There are also chat and email options available. Connex Ontario is not a counselling service. However, it does connect you to appropriate treatment options in your nearby community.

Help, support and education can also be found at:

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare – Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centres in its field. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

Responsible Gambling Council

Website: RGC
Phone: +1 (416) 499-9800



Photo by PlayCanada
Matthew Lomon Avatar
Written by
Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

View all posts by Matthew Lomon
Privacy Policy