Teenage gambling is a growing problem as more and more teens are finding themselves with gambling debts that they cannot hope to repay and a growing addiction to gambling. Some are addicted to online gambling games and others to table games with ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ the current game of choice.
As a teen gambles more and more to recoup his (or less frequently as most teen gamblers are boys), her losses, they are at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers. Gambling is an addiction, and gamblers may spend more and more time on that activity, and less on schoolwork and relationships with family and friends. Teens in Los Angeles are often subject to the hype of “get rich quick” themes associated with gambling in places such as Las Vegas as well as being drawn to on line gambling as a compulsive activity.
Teens who gamble socially play with a set amount of money and when it’s gone they quit. They avoid high stake games with large pots and they limit playing to once or twice a week with friends. A compulsive gambler likes the rush they feel when gambling and will try almost anything to stay in the game. They will continue to play even after losing a great deal of money and have no qualms about signing IOUs or using a credit card.
Interestingly, gambling is an addiction that often attracts boys who are competitive, intelligent, risk-takers, high energy, good students with strong math skills. These teens are popular, participate in sports and prioritize money and material goods. They often bet on sports, cards, dice, lottery, horses and casino.
The best way for parents to prevent their teens from developing a gambling addiction is to be involved. Create a dialogue about gambling related content such as the lottery, and educate by example. Let your teen know that he or she can have friendly poker games at home but be prepared to step in if the pot becomes too large or the teens start writing IOUs. Social gambling can be fun for teens, but some consequences of a gambling addiction include:
- Declining grades.
- Habitual money problems.
- Less time for friends and family.
- Temptation to engage in illegal behavior to get money to pay off gambling debts – leading to possible jail time.
- Associations with unsavory characters who could make life difficult if they are not paid.
The California Council on Problem Gambling is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting problem gamblers and their families by promoting awareness, education, research, prevention and treatment for problem gambling. The number is 1-800-GAMBLER or 1-800-522-4700.