Youth Gambling

Youth and Gambling (

One of the challenges of growing up is making the right decisions under social pressure. The rapid expansion of the gambling industry has changed many people’s opinion about what is acceptable gambling — and what is an acceptable age to begin gambling.

The study of young gamblers is in its infancy. The studies that have been done tell us that:

– youth gambling rates in American and Canadian cities are about the same (52-89% of youth are gambling)

– Informal types of games (cards, sports betting) are popular for underage gamblers

– Youth tend to play games on a monthly to weekly basis, however, some youth gamble on a daily basis

•  3 to 4% of youth run the risk of becoming a pathological gambler

•  Youth who have other problems (like substance abuse) are at greater risk of developing a gambling problem

(sources: NRC 1999, AFM, 1990, Nova Scotia Omnifacts, 1993)

Since young peoples’ minds and bodies are still developing, it can be even more difficult for them to control impulses and make smart decisions about how and when to gamble.

Factors like feeling alienated, having trouble at school or having parents with bad gambling behaviour are just some of the reasons why youth develop problems. Peer pressure can also play a part in problem gambling. Some young people feel that gambling is a “rite of passage”. Others have nothing better to do than gamble.

Since gambling has become more socially acceptable for adults, it is easy for youth to downplay the seriousness of a gambling problem and blame it on other factors.

The fact that gambling is illegal can be part of the thrill for young gamblers. Even though by law, minors are prohibited from gaming venues, there are many other ways that youth can get involved in gaming activities.

  • Cannot confide
  • Feels ignored, anxious, worried, depressed
  • Negative school experiences
  • Early first gambling experience
  • Uses gambling “lingo”
  • Active in other risk behaviours
  • Reducing the Risk: Harm Reduction
  • Don’t push for abstinence – allow for choice.
  • Encourage informed decisions – don’t try

    to scare.

  • Provide sound information.
  • Communicate positive messages.