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Understanding the Risks of Youth Gambling

Understand the risks of youth gambling. A guide for parents.

Atlantic Lottery products are designed for fun and entertainment. But they are not designed for everyone. Gambling is intended as an entertainment option for adults. You can’t drive until you reach a certain age. You can’t buy alcohol or cannabis under 19. Gambling is also one of those age-restricted activities that young people aren’t ready for. Why? Because our brains are not fully developed at a young age and until the brain is fully mature, children and teenagers aren’t prepared to balance emotion and logic to make healthy choices. They’re not equipped to consider the consequences of their decisions. Instead, they are more likely to act impulsively and take risks.

Let’s be clear about what gambling is.

Gambling is when you risk anything of value on any activity with an uncertain outcome. Examples include sports betting, card games for money, buying lottery tickets and playing machines (Video Lottery Terminals or slot machines) and Internet gambling. With youth, it might not even be money on the line. It might be their school lunch, personal belongings or anything else. Your kids might think it’s not a big deal. But it’s still gambling.

Our policy is 19+

We draw the line at 19. That’s why all of our products and entertainment facilities are only available to adults 19 years of age and older. In addition, our retailers and other staff are required to ID anyone who looks under the age of 25. And no matter what your age, you may be asked for photo ID to:

• Enter a casino gaming floor

• Purchase, play or redeem lottery products

• Wager on simulcast or live racing

What influences young people’s view of gambling

Today’s youth are more exposed to gambling than any previous generation. Much of that exposure doesn’t talk about the negative consequences, only glamour and reward, which can leave them thinking the wrong things. One common myth with adolescents is that if they are good at video games, they will be good at playing VLTs. The reality is video games require skill. What they don’t know is that a VLT machine, just like any other game of chance is not skill-based. The results are random, and you cannot influence the outcome like you can with a video game. This is just one example of why it’s so important that young people have the right information about gambling and the risks that come with it. 

Why young people gamble

• To forget their problems

• Because they’re bored

• Relieve feelings of depression

• Gain excitement

• The chance to win

Where young people gamble

Young people are able to find ways to gamble online through their cell phone, tablet or computer, at home, a friend’s house or school.

What the research says

Studies show a connection between gambling at a young age and the potential for gambling related concerns later in life. What else do they say?

 

Some research states that youth gamblers:

• Are more likely to be boys

• Often recall a big win early on

• Report gambling at an early age (around 10 years old)

• Often have parents, friends and relatives who gamble

• Report high rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts

• Have poor general coping skills and lower self-esteem

• Have difficulty in school or show a decrease in academic performance

• Are more likely to be delinquent and involved in criminal activities to acquire money

• Gamble to escape problems

Signs to watch for

• Spends a lot of time gambling and talking about gambling

• Possesses gambling materials (dice, playing cards, scratch tickets)

• Missing school or worsening grades

• Missing money or possessions in the house

• Personality changes - mood swings, stressed out, lies or secretive behaviour

• Borrows or takes money from others

• Believes they can win back their money and then stop

• Family or friends are concerned that youth’s gambling is becoming serious

• Gambles as a means to escape or target their problems Keep in mind that a person will not necessarily show all of these behaviours. If you’re concerned, it’s time to talk with them.

Tips For Parents

You are a lot of things to your children – role model, influencer and protector. Here are a few things you can do to provide support and help prevent youth gambling from becoming an issue in your family:

• Learn the facts, age restrictions and warning signs

• Encourage discussions and questions about gambling

• Ensure you listen to what your child has to say

• Be aware of your own gambling behaviours

• Avoid buying gambling products for minors

• Keep Internet-connected devices in an open area – be mindful of tablets and cell phones as well as home computers

• Know where your kids are going online and have clear rules about what online games they can play and the risks

Support

Provincial Support Lines: Free and confidential support is just a phone call away.

  • Prince Edward Island: 1-855-255-4255
  • New Brunswick: 1-800-461-1234
  • Newfoundland & Labrador: 1-888-899-HELP (4357)
  • Nova Scotia: 1-888-347-8888
     

Gam-Anon 
www.gam-anon.org – Gam-Anon is a 12-Step self-help organization for those affected by the gambling problem of a loved one. The program is no-cost to participants.
 

GamTalk Forum
www.gamtalk.org/forums – GamTalk is an online forum for anyone who wants to discuss gambling issues, concerns about the gambling behaviour of a friend or loved one, or are looking for advice on responsible gambling.
 

International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High Risk Behaviors
www.youthgambling.com – Information on youth gambling, research, tools and more.
 

Find out more. Visit our Helpful Resources page.