How can I tell if my son or daughter is having a problem with gambling?

March 1st begins National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Here are some statistics on the prevelance on gambling and how it can effect your teen.

  •  85% of US adults have gambled at least once in their lives, 80% in past year.
  • Since 1975, the proportion of adults who "never gambled" dropped from 1 in 3 to 1 in 7.
  • 48 States with some form of legalized gambling (Hawaii and Utah are the exceptions)
  • 2002 U.S. legal gaming revenue was $68.7 billion.
  • In 1999 the National Gambling Impact Study Commission estimated the annual cost to society of problem gambling was $5 billion.
  • During fiscal year 2002, U.S. lottery sales totaled $42.4 billion; per capita sales were $168 (NASPL, 2003)
  • It is estimated that in 1997 Americans collectively wagered more than $1/2 trillion (National Research Council, 1999) 
  • Consumers spend more on legal gaming in the U.S. than most other forms of entertainment combined (1998 Gross Annual Wager Report, 1999)
  • Forty to 60 percent of cash wagered in casinos is withdrawn from ATMs, either from personal accounts or as cash advances from credit cards (NORC, 1999)


It is important to recognize that most people can gamble without negative consequences. A small percentage, however, of persons who gamble suffer enormous social, economic, and psychological implications. Individuals, families and communities all suffer from problem gambling, and, while it would be impossible to describe all of the repercussions associated with problem gambling, the following issues help to illustrate why problem gambling can be so destructive.

Look for the following warning signs:

  • Finding gambling "stuff" like lottery tickets, betting sheets, and casino chips
  • Excessive TV sports watching and an overly intensive interest in the outcome of sports events
  • Visits to a casino, despite being underage
  • Excessive "checking in" or spending time on the Internet
  • Unexplained debts
  • Flaunting large amounts of money or buying expensive items
  • Absences from school or work
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Stealing for gambling money

Any game of chance or skill that is played for money is gambling. Most forms of gambling are illegal for anyone younger than 18 years. However, teens find their own ways to gamble, including

  • Playing cards or dice games for money
  • Playing games of skill for money (for example, pool, basketball)
  • Buying lottery tickets and scratch cards
  • Playing casino- and arcade-type games (like pull tabs and slot machines)
  • Placing bets on sports events
  • Gambling on the Internet

What You Can Do

You are the best role model for your children. Take a close look at your own attitudes and habits. Do you spend your last dollar on lottery tickets? Do you make frequent visits to the casino with hopes of striking it rich? While gambling may be okay for you, you may be sending a message to your teen that gambling is a safe and healthy activity.

Talk with your children about gambling. Remind them that gambling is illegal for teens. Be clear about how you feel about gambling, and let them know what you expect of them. Help your children develop ways to resist gambling and develop interests in other activities. Don't take your children with you to the casino even if child care is offered. 


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