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Almost three quarter of teens admit to gambling within the last 12 months - which is troubling news when you consider that research indicates that the younger a person starts gambling, the greater their odds for an eventual gambling problem.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) 2006 Survey for Gambling Behaviors and Problem Gambling among Adolescents in New York State provides a good snapshot of the situation nationwide. In 2006, among students from grades 7 to 12:

  • 72% had gambled at least once within 12 months of being surveyed, 34% had gambled within a month and 12% had gambled 4 or more times with a month of being asked
  • Amongst teens who had gambled with the past year, playing the lottery was the most common form of gambling activity (43%) followed by betting on cards (39%) betting on sports (30%) and betting on games of skill, such as pool or snooker (30%)
  • Amongst students who have a substance abuse problem, 28% also have a gambling problem severe enough to warrant treatment and an additional 17% are at risk of a gambling problem
  • Males were far more likely to have a gambling problem than women, at 16% compared to 4% incidence rates
  • In all 10% of the teens surveyed met the criteria for having either pathological gambling or problem gambling and a further 10% were classified as at risk of becoming problem gamblers 1

In another study, young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were found to have problem gambling rates that doubled those of older adults.2

The Younger You Start, the Bigger the Problem

Teens that are prevented from gambling at very young ages are less likely to develop a serious problem down the road.

Although present society often glamorizes the act of gambling (the world poker tour, casinos, movies on Vegas, etc.) there is no doubt that people who start gambling as young people are at greater risk of developing a life-long gambling problem. Gambling can be addictive, teens are at greater risk of an addiction and the longer parents can keep their children from experimenting with gambling, the better the likely outcome.

Teens who start gambling at a very young age are at far greater risk of serious lifelong pathological gambling problems than young people who wait slightly longer before first gambling. Research shows that:

  • Amongst adult pathological gamblers, those that have the most severe gambling problems tend to be those that started gambling at the youngest ages3
  • Amongst adult problem gamblers, those that started gambling at younger ages wagered more frequently than problem gamblers that started as adults. Early onset gamblers were also twice as likely to have a chronic medical condition as later onset gamblers and were more likely to have psychiatric condition.4

Clearly, there is harm in gambling at a very young age and parents and family members should engage in efforts to prevent such behaviors.

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Page last updated Jun 10, 2011

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