Gambling and Kids

The next generation is the first in modern American history to grow up in an era when gambling is legally sanctioned and culturally approved. Tragically, adolescents have proven extremely susceptible to the enticements of gambling, and are becoming hooked at rates even greater than their adult counterparts. Scholars and researchers caution that we may only be seeing the "tip of the iceberg," and that the seeds of destruction being sown in these young lives today portend immense individual and cultural devastation as we enter the 21st century.

A 1997 survey of 12,000 sixth- through twelfth-graders in Louisiana found that 86 percent had gambled. Almost six percent of the students surveyed by the Louisiana State University Medical School researchers met the criteria for pathological gambling, while 16 percent could be classified as problem gamblers. 1

A survey of Atlantic City high school students showed that 64 percent had gambled at the city's casinos. Twenty-one percent reported visiting the casinos more than 10 times. 2

In 1995, New Jersey casinos reported ejecting nearly 26,000 underage persons some time after they had managed to enter the casinos. Another 136,000 juveniles attempted to enter the casinos but were prevented from doing so. 3

Howard Shaffer, director of the Center for Addiction Studies at Harvard Medical School, conducted a meta-analysis of youth gambling studies in North America. Shaffer concluded that the rate of problem gambling for youths ranged between 9.9 percent and 14.2 percent, while an additional 4.4 percent to 7.4 percent were already exhibiting compulsive gambling behaviors. 4

University of Minnesota researchers found that 52 percent of underage Minnesota youths surveyed had gambled on legal gambling activities. 5

The Massachusetts Attorney General's office conducted a sting operation in which 66 percent of minors were able to place bets on Keno games. The sting tested compliance at 90 different locations and involved adolescents as young as 14. The minimum legal age to gamble on Keno in Massachusetts is 18.6 An earlier survey by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office found that 80 percent of minors in Massachusetts were able to purchase lottery tickets.7

In studies of gambling behaviors among high school students, one in 10 report committing illegal acts to obtain gambling money or to pay gambling debts. 8

The national 1-800-GAMBLER helpline received nearly 76,000 calls in 1995; 12 percent of callers were under the age of 21.9

A survey of high school students in Massachusetts found that 5 percent had been arrested for a gambling-related offense. The survey further found that 10 percent of students reported experiencing family problems because of their gambling, 8 percent had gotten in trouble at work or school due to their gambling activities, and 13 percent reported being unable to stop gambling when they wanted. 10

1 James Westphal, Jill Rush, and Lee Stevens, "Preliminary Report on the Statewide Baseline Survey for Pathological Gambling and Substance Abuse, Louisiana Adolescents (6th Through 12th Grades) School Year 96-97," Department of Psychiatry, Louisiana State University Medical Center School of Medicine in Shreveport, June 30, 1997.
2 Alan F. Arcuri, David Lester, and Franklin O. Smith, "Shaping Adolescent Gambling Behavior," Adolescence, Winter 1985, p. 936.
3 "Juvenile Suspected Underage Report: January to December 1995," New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
4 Howard J. Shaffer and Matthew N. Hall, "Estimating the Prevalence of Adolescent Gambling Disorders: A Quantitative Synthesis and Guide Toward Standard Gambling Nomenclature," Journal of Gambling Studies, Summer 1996, p. 193.
5 Ken C. Winters, Randy D. Stinchfield, and Leigh G. Kim, "Monitoring Adolescent Gambling in Minnesota," Journal of Gambling Studies, Summer 1995, p. 179.
6 Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts , "Kids and Keno Are a Bad Bet: A Report on the Sale of Keno Tickets to Minors in Massachusetts," October 8, 1996.
7 Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts , "Report on the Sale of Lottery Tickets to Minors in Massachusetts," July 1994.
8 Durand F. Jacobs, "Illegal and Undocumented: A Review of Teenage Gambling and the Plight of Children of Problem Gamblers in America," in Compulsive Gambling: Theory, Research and Practice , Howard Shaffer (editor), (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1989), p. 256.
9 Durand F. Jacobs, "Illegal and Undocumented: A Review of Teenage Gambling and the Plight of Children of Problem Gamblers in America," in Compulsive Gambling: Theory, Research and Practice , Howard Shaffer (editor), (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1989), p. 256.
10 Howard J. Shaffer, "The Emergence of Youthful Addiction: The Prevalance of Underage Lottery Use and the Impact of Gambling," Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, January 13, 1994, p. 12.

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