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It’s not surprising that sensation loving teens enjoy the thrill of recreational gambling, and since society seems to condone gambling as an acceptable activity, and since gambling opportunities are so easily found, even for those under the age of 18, it’s not surprising that most are already engaging in at least some amount of gambling.

Yet as much as teens may enjoy the excitement of a wager, few that gamble have any real appreciation of the risks involved.

  • Teens are more likely than adults to develop a gambling problem, and an estimated 10% of teens from grades 7 to 12 are already problem gamblers
  • People that start gambling at a very young age are far more likely to mature into problem or pathological gamblers
  • Teens that become problem gamblers also have higher incidence rates of drug and alcohol abuse, risky sexual behaviors, violent acts, mental illness and school and family problems1

Although we may glamorize gambling in media and though opportunities to place a bet are never far away or hard to find, everyone needs to know that teens that gamble are putting themselves at risk; and that parents who teach their children to abstain or delay gambling do a great deal to reduce the risks of gambling addiction in the family.

Why and Where Do Teens Gamble?

Though most jurisdictions enforce minimum age requirements for gambling, teens and even preteens have very little trouble finding places to lay a bet.

Teens may have trouble gaining entry to a casino, but teens have little difficulty playing lottery or scratch and win cards, wagering at charity events, playing cards for money or betting on sports events or games like pool – and with internet casinos now open for play around the clock, any teen with access to a credit card a bedroom computer can play high stakes card games in complete privacy and anonymity.

Some of the reasons why teens may be attracted to gambling include:

  • It can be fun and exciting
  • Teens have a preference for low effort/high stimulation activities (because of brain development at this life-stage)2
  • There is an opportunity to win large sum of money
  • It is glamorized in movies and on TV
  • Advertising campaigns for lotteries or casinos promote the behavior
  • Society generally condones gambling, as do many parents (Although it’s an addictive behavior, few parents are as worried about gambling as they are about drugs or alcohol use, for example)
  • Teens generally don’t see gambling as a high risk activity3
  • Few prevention programs exist to educate teens to the risks of gambling (unlike prevention programs which warn against drugs, tobacco and alcohol, for example)

Teens are more or less hard-wired to enjoy gambling and they have no trouble finding places to play – and with this combination of attraction and easy availability, it’s not at all surprising that the vast majority of American teens are already gambling. However, since they’re also more likely impulsive and less able to forecast the likely consequences of their action, they are also at much greater risk to become problem gamblers.

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Page last updated Jan 08, 2014

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