Youth Gambling Prevention

Connecticut youth are growing up in an environment where legalized gambling is a socially acceptable, widely promoted, and a highly visible recreational activity. In this context, it is not surprising that many young people in Connecticut under the age of 18 are gambling.

Young people need to understand what gambling is, and they need to be educated to the consequences of gambling. Once they reach the legal age, they should be clear that choosing not to gamble is a legitimate lifestyle choice. If at this point they choose to gamble, they need to understand that gambling is not a risk-free activity and practicing responsible behavior when gambling is essential.

Gambling is often looked at as a harmless activity. “At least my child isn’t drinking or doing other drugs” is a remark heard quite often when talking about gambling and young people. The truth is that while the person is not ingesting a possibly lethal substance, a gambling addiction can be just as devastating to the problem gambler, family, friends and the community. The possible consequences reach far beyond mounting debt. Other effects of problem gambling can include:

  • Dropping out of school
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Depression
  • Suicide

Research has shown that just as with other addictions, problem gambling has “risk factors” that can increase a person’s susceptibility to an addiction. Many of the problem gambling studies conducted with young people and problem gambling show that younger individuals are more at risk than adults of developing a gambling problem. Risk factors can include:

  • An early “big win”
  • Family history of problem gambling, abuse/trauma or substance abuse
  • Loneliness or boredom
  • Wanting to “fit in” or peer pressure
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor coping skills
  • A lack of identity and purpose in life

What can Adults do to decrease the risk of problem gambling?

  • Raise awareness among other adults who care about youth by discussing the risks associated with gambling
  • Encourage schools and other organizations involved with youth to distribute information on the risks associated with gambling
  • Form a collaborative network, comprised of parents, teachers, coaches, clergy and others who serve as role models for youth in school and communities, to raise awareness and support healthy behaviors in order to lower the risk of problem gambling in youth

What can Schools do to decrease the risk of problem gambling?

  • Include gambling awareness information in curricula
  • Provide training through professional development programs for teachers and administrators
  • Train student assistance teams and school mental health personnel to assess for problem gambling and refer students to appropriate treatment resources
  • Review or establish a school policy on gambling and promote enforcement of the policy

What can Parents do to decrease the risk of problem gambling?

  • Examine their own attitudes about gambling and be responsible role models
  • Learn the facts about gambling: age restrictions, types of gambling and gambling terminology
  • Know the warning signs of problem gambling and be alert to changes in behavior that might indicate a problem
  • Talk to their children about the risks associated with gambling
  • Not give up their power of positive influence. Young people who engage in the least risky behaviors cite their parents as the most significant influence, while those who engage in the most risky behaviors site their peers