Whether it’s with their friends at parties, on the Internet, or at school, millions of teenagers are taking up an ever-more-accessible national past time – gambling. Quite a bit of the action is small-time; dice games, playing cards, and lottery tickets. However, the long term stakes are high because many who start gambling at a young age run the risk of developing addiction problems (Teenage Gambling Raises Concerns).
Regional surveys are finding that more than 30 percent of all high school students gamble periodically and one in three high school students gamble on a regular basis, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Poker has moved from the smoke-filled back rooms of yesterday to the suburban living rooms and basements of today. Many of the players aren’t rough housing grownups chomping cigars, but teenagers who have too much time on their hands. One current fad is an old game that’s been refreshed for television: no-limit Texas hold’em in which a player can bet all of his money in one risky move. The game has the drama needed to hold a TV audience and to electrify thrill-seeking teenagers. (Teenage Gambling).
For the past few years teenage gambling has been increasing at an exponential rate. Some of the contributing factors include: family members who gamble, peers, television programs that display poker tournaments, skillful advertising from gambling establishments, and the Internet. One teen said, “My wallet was just full of cash. I mean, what greater feeling is it when you’ve got all this money. I began calling in sick at work and not showing up to my classes. Before I knew it, I was in debt and my life was spiraling out of control.”
This is the first generation of kids growing up when gambling is legal and available nationwide. A recent survey in Delaware found that teens who gambled were much more likely that other teens to smoke, drink alcohol, use illegal drugs, and commit petty crimes. Most casinos try to keep underage gamblers off their premises, but enforcement is a big challenge and most teens find it quite easy to sneak in.
The International Center for Youth Gambling Problems is focusing on gambling trend – what they found is that gambling problems afflict up to 8 percent of young gamblers. Adult gambling addicts might seek help when they realize their job, finances, or marriage are in jeopardy, but teens are less likely to do so.
The Internet provides the holy trinity of risk factors – immediate access, anonymity, and with the use of a credit card, the ability to gamble with money that teens don’t really have. Teenagers that have been negatively affected by gambling addiction exhibit signs of self destructive behavior and an apathetic view towards school. “I had access to my parent’s $5000.00 vacation fund at the bank and I took it out and gambled it. I don’t know why I did it. As I was drawing the money out of the bank, I felt like a bullet was going through me. I lost all $5000.00 in one night. I remember leaving the casino at around 2:00 in the morning just bawling my eyes out.” Many teens are under the impression that they can turn around a losing streak by playing “just one more game” or that if they keep playing they can win and cover their losses before their parents find out (Stop Teenage Gambling).
Helping teens curtail out of control gambling by educating them in the classroom and at home can be a very effective deterrent. Teens need to be educated that gambling is not “just playing a game” and that the consequences of losing control can add up to devastating financial and emotional losses.