#ExtraGive to Help Prevent Problem Gambling in Kids

Would your child know what to say if someone asked him or her to gamble? Every day, whether it’s at home or school, children in the Lancaster, PA community face tough choices about unhealthy behaviors–and gambling is one of those.

Many adults are able to gamble without negative consequences; however, children and teens who gamble are at higher risk for developing gambling addiction later in life.

Problem gambling is a diagnosable condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or financial status. It’s been connected to an increased risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

Learn more in 5 Problem Gambling Myths Exposed.

Help Kids in the Lancaster Community Make Healthy Choices About Gambling

Since 1966, Compass Mark has helped individuals, families, educators, and others prevent addiction in our community. We serve over 17,000 people each year through substance abuse and problem gambling education, youth development, and information / referral services.

We offer a youth gambling and addiction prevention program called We Know BETter to schools in Lancaster and Lebanon. This curriculum, aimed at students in grades 4-8, incorporates age-appropriate activities to help youth learn practical refusal skills and improve coping strategies.

Donate to Compass Mark on Friday, November 18, 2016 during The Extraordinary Give. Your investment in the Lancaster community will help our team continue to teach kids and teens the life skills they need to  make healthy decisions. For more information about this event, visit Extra Give.

Signs of Problem Gambling in Kids [Infographic]

Could you identify underage problem gambling in your child, student, or youth group member?

Adolescents have a higher risk for developing problem gambling, which is a diagnosable condition classified with Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While many factors play a role in the condition’s development, the risk for teens is increased by the higher levels of risk-taking and lower levels of impulse control common in that age group.

Technology makes it easier than ever for kids to access gambling; that accessibility can create a pathway for at-risk kids to develop the condition. Even free games pose a risk. For example, research suggests that teens who play simulated games, like free poker, are more likely to gamble and report gambling problems later in life. Other studies have found that gamblers who play in “free” or “practice” mode place higher bets when wagering with real money later.

Check out the gambling infographic below from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence- Rochester Area to learn the signs of youth gambling.

The infographic lists help resources for the NY area. If you’re an educator or youth group leader in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA who wants to help kids learn to make healthy decisions, contact Compass Mark about We Know BETter. This free gambling awareness and prevention curriculum offers engaging, age-appropriate activities for children in grades 4-8. Call 717-299-2831 for details.

Signs Problem Gambling Teens, Children


College Gambling: Facts for Parents

The July 4th holiday is only a few weeks behind us and already stores are packing aisles with back-to-college supplies, from bed sheets to notebooks to tech toys. As you prepare your nearly-adult child to head off to the world of higher education, take time to open up a conversation about the dangers of problem gambling.

Fact: 75% of college students gamble.
The campus environment already presents potential dangers to kids, from sexual assault to alcohol to other drugs. Gambling is a risky activity as well. While many Americans can gamble without negative consequences, others develop problem gambling, a diagnosable condition that impacts every aspect of life, including relationships, physical health, substance use, and finances.

Fact: 6% of college students have a life-impacting gambling problem.
This rate is about double that of the general population. Students who struggle at this level also struggle to live their lives. Signs of a gambling problem in college include:

  • Falling grades;
  • Declining class attendance;
  • Failing relationships with family, friends, and significant others;
  • Mood swings related to wins and losses;
  • Increasing debt;
  • Stealing or lying to get money;
  • Pawning or selling possessions;
  • Increased risk of substance use;
  • Increased risk of depression and suicide.

Fact: You can influence how your college-age child makes decisions.
It can be scary to consider that the little boy or girl you seemingly just cradled in your arms is now moving into a world in which you’ll have far less control over the environment. The best tool for success that you can give your child is to start an open and non-confrontational discussion about risky behaviors, including gambling.

  • Find out whether the college has a gambling policy; if it does, discuss it with your adolescent. Gambling may be barred on campus, so make sure you and your child review the school’s policy and talk about potential consequences. Consider also that student athletes, in particular, may be prohibited from gambling at the risk of lost playing time or scholarships.
  • Find out the gambling laws for the state where your child will attend school.
    If your college student is under the state’s legal gambling age, let him or her know that gambling is illegal for them. In PA, the legal gambling age is 21 for casinos and 18 for racetracks.
  • Talk about the financial dangers of gambling.
    It’s likely school-related debt is already at the top of your family’s collective mind. Remind your student that gambling debt can add significantly to what is already a daunting obligation.
  • Have a conversation about drinking and gambling.
    Alcohol lowers inhibitions and reduces the ability to make rational decisions about many things, including wagers. Chat with your college kid about avoiding the supersized physical and emotional hangover that comes from gambling while drinking—there are few worse ways to start the day than to realize you lost $200 last night betting on how many shots a classmate could drink.

For more information about college problem gambling prevention and treatment resources in Central PA, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


Simulated Gambling May Be a Gamble for Kids [Research]

Kids who play simulated gambling games, like free poker or casino-style games, are more likely to gamble and report gambling problems later in life, according to a recent discussion paper from the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC). It also cited evidence suggesting about 20% of adolescents playing simulated gambling will transition to gambling for real money.

In addition, the authors note that the players reported the primary reason they move from simulated to commercial gambling is to win money. It’s worth noting that 25% of the teens who reported gambling for real money said they’d switched to simulated games to avoid losing money.

The AGRC’s Dr. Anna Thomas said in a release:

“Young people are being introduced to gambling at a far younger age than in previous generations when to be able to gamble you had to gain entry to a venue, meet dress codes and produce identification.

“Today people are much more likely to have a realistic gambling-type experience at a young age and this may increase the extent to which gambling is seen as normal, acceptable, attractive and relatively harmless.”

Reasons Free or Practice Games are a Gamble for Kids & Teens
  • These games reinforce winning behavior with credits or prizes but don’t expose players to the consequences of losses (i.e. losing real money).
  • Studies suggest free-to-play and practice games offer higher “payouts” than gambling that involves real money.
  • Researchers have found that players who gamble on free simulated games bet “significantly” more than other players when they later wager with real money.
  • Simulated games may give players an inflated sense of skill level, providing a confidence boost that attracts them to real money games—even though gambling success is based on luck and not skill.
Learn more about gambling in children and adolescents.

Tips for Parents of Teen Online Gamblers
Fantasy Football: Priming Kids for Problem Gambling?
Is Your College Student at Risk for Problem Gambling? How to Start a Conversation

If you’re a parent or loved one worried about a youth’s simulated play or real-money gambling, take this risk assessment quiz. For additional information, contact our team for free, confidential guidance.

Are you an educator, youth group leader, or other concerned professional? Compass Mark offers We Know BETter, a free gambling education and awareness program designed for children in grades 4-8. Learn more by contacting us at (717) 299-2831


Fantasy Football: Priming Kids for Problem Gambling?

Fantasy football is just fun-n-games for kids, right? Maybe not, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. The groups recently sent letters to the NFL asking the organization to stop marketing its fantasy sports league to children because it could raise the risk of problem gambling in some youth.

The messages contend the NFL “aggressively” markets a fantasy sports game on its children’s website and smartphone app as well as through other outlets, such as the Sports Illustrated website for kids.  In addition, the game was marketed through an elementary school curriculum.

The fantasy league allows children ages 6-12 to pick a team of fantasy players and then collect points based on the athletes’ real-game performances. The two children with the highest point totals at season’s end were awarded a $5,000 check (which the NFL coined a scholarship) and a trip to the 2016 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

According to The Associated Press reporting, the curriculum component, which was discontinued after the 2014 season, entailed a math and language arts program that required children to sign up for the NFL’s fantasy game in order to access lessons and complete assignments.

Executive Director for the NCPG, Keith Whyte, said in a statement:

“The high value of the prizes may send a message to children that playing fantasy sports is a good way to earn money for education. Even worse, it may encourage children to spend excessive amounts of time trying to win these prizes, thus planting the seeds of addiction.”

Are Kids Vulnerable to Gambling Addiction?

Yes! Adolescents and student-athletes, in particular, are at higher risk for developing gambling addiction. What’s more, research suggests the earlier a child starts gambling, the higher his or her risk for developing compulsive gambling later in life.

Concerned adults, including parents, caregivers, educators, and youth ministers, often try to direct children toward healthier choices regarding risky activities, like smoking, sex, alcohol, and other drugs. Likewise, we have a responsibility to help youth understand the potential risks of gambling and how it can impact their lives financially, emotionally, and even physically. Learn more in Gambling Addiction and Kids and How to Prevent Teen Gambling.

To find gambling education resources for your family, school, or organization in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.


Rat Study Shows Casino Environment May Trigger Riskier Gambling [Research]

Science is now proving what casino and game designers have long understood: environment can play a role in gambling behavior. A study, recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that adding lights and sounds to a gambling task changed how rats made decisions.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia trained rats to gamble for sugary treats. Then the team added lights and sounds to its “rat casino” to mimic the casino environment. After the addition, the rats’ behavior changed, and they began to take more risks to win treats.

“It seemed, at the time, like a stupid thing to do, because it didn’t seem like adding lights and sound would have much of an impact. But when we ran the study, the effect was enormous,” said Catharine Winstanley, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, in a media release.

The researchers’ work didn’t stop at identifying environment as one potential catalyst for problem gambling behavior; they also found that when the rats in the casino-like environment were given a drug blocking a specific dopamine receptor, the rats no longer showed problem gambling behavior. Additionally, the team discovered the dopamine blocker had minimal impact on rats gambling without flashy lights or sounds.

Study authors note the drug finding is significant because it could help lay the groundwork for advancing treatment in substance addiction, which may share some of the same biological underpinnings as problem gambling.

For related game design-addiction information, check out Addictive by Design? How Gambling Machines Can Hook Players.

What does this mean for parents, educators, and other concerned adults?

This study recreated a casino-like environment—something most kids and teens can’t experience until they reach legal gambling age. However, gambling-type apps for smartphones and tablets can be surprisingly realistic and that has the potential to prime children’s brains for problem gambling.

Apps that incorporate slots and other casino games offer engaging play that includes casino-type lights and sounds. Many apps also feature cartoon-like characters that add a kid-friendly veneer to the experience.

Although game designers say their products are intended for adult use, the fact is that many games don’t have robust age verification systems, meaning there’s little to stop a smart kid from downloading an app despite his or her age.

Children and teens who play gambling-related apps aren’t necessarily destined for a life of gambling addiction; however parents and other concerned adults should consider that it could be problematic to introduce casino-type play to some children and teens, particularly those who already have risk factors for problem gambling.

Compass Mark offers age-appropriate gambling education and prevention resources for kids in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. Call our team at (717) 299-2831 to learn which programs or materials will guide your children or teens into healthier decisions.


Don’t Give Your Child the Gift of Problem Gambling: Avoid These Gift Ideas

With the number of shopping days ticking down, you may be wrapping up your holiday gift shopping over the next week or so. If you still have items to cross off your gift-giving list, you may want to check out this list of gifts with the potential to raise your child’s risk of developing problem gambling.

  • Scratch-off lottery tickets: Please don’t stuff kids’ stockings with lottery tickets! They might seem like harmless games, but research from Yale suggests high school students who had received them as gifts during childhood were more likely to struggle with problem gambling behaviors as teenagers. What’s more, additional research suggests that the earlier a child starts gambling, the higher his or her risk for developing a severe gambling addiction later in life.
  • Gambling-related toys: Avoid buying play slot machines, handheld electronic casino games, card-playing stuffed dogs (yes, an actual product), and slots-shaped piggy banks when you’re shopping for kids’ gifts this year. As with lottery tickets, gambling toys can seem harmless. However, they normalize a behavior that can become problematic later in life.
  • Gambling apps: Once again smartphones and tablets are high on wish lists for children and teens. If tech is on your holiday shopping agenda this year, avoid loading the device with apps that encourage gambling, even those apps that offer free-play games. (Researchers have found that free-play mode encourages players to bet higher amounts when wagering with real money later.) Use parental controls and monitoring software/services to ensure your child or teen isn’t downloading these apps on their own. Giving tech to a college student? Start a conversation with him or her about the dangers of unhealthy gambling behavior—just as you’d speak to them about drinking alcohol or unprotected sex. (Learn 4 Tips for Talking with Your College Kid About Problem Gambling.)
Compulsive Gambling Prevention, Treatment in Lancaster, PA & Lebanon, PA

If you have questions about preventing gambling addiction in children and college students or if you need addiction referrals in the Lancaster-Lebanon area, contact Compass Mark. Our team is here to help parents, caregivers, educators, and health care professionals find treatment and prevention resources. Call 717-299-2831 or get in touch using this online help form.



Help Prevent Youth Gambling: #ExtraGive to Compass Mark Kids

To gamble or not to gamble? Every day, Lancaster County kids are faced with choices that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Some of those choices, like substance use, receive plenty of attention–and rightfully so. But there’s another potentially dangerous activity that often flies under the radar: youth gambling.

Gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment for most (although certainly not all) adults. However, research suggests that the younger a person is when he or she starts gambling, the higher their risk of developing compulsive gambling. People struggling with this condition have an increased risk of substance abuse and depression. Gambling-addicted people also have among the highest suicide rates of any group with addiction. These factors make it critical that kids and teens learn the healthy life skills needed to reduce their addiction risk.

Prevention is what we do best at Compass Mark. Our nationally-recognized programs teach Lancaster County youth the skills they need to resist unhealthy choices, whether it’s drugs or sex or gambling.

We offer a range of prevention programs to target unhealthy behaviors. Our youth gambling program is called We Know BETter. This prevention curriculum, aimed at students in grades 4-8, incorporates age-appropriate activities to help children learn practical refusal skills and improve coping strategies.

Help Lancaster’s Kids Make Healthy Choices About Gambling

When you invest in a child you invest in a healthy community that spends less money on addiction treatment, law enforcement, and more. Give to Compass Mark Kids on Friday, November 20th during The Extraordinary Give to help our team continue teaching youth real-life skills that will help them make better decisions. For more information, visit Extra Give.

Help us get the word out over the next few days by sharing or liking some of our Facebook posts, retweeting us @CompassMarkInc, and talking with friends, family, and neighbors.


Teens: Sex, Drugs, and…Gambling? What Parents Need to Know

Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. When we talked about risky teen behavior in the past, it was often limited to those types of high-risk or boundary-stretching behaviors. However, problem gambling is increasingly becoming a high-risk behavior for adolescents, according to an article in Wisconsin’s Post Crescent.

“This is the first generation of kids that has grown up with widespread gambling,” said Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Rose Gruber, when interviewed for the piece. The organization she heads is now working to educate parents and students on the dangers of gambling.

Problem Gambling and Teens

As Gruber noted, it’s easier than ever for teens to access gambling. Technology allows people of any age to gamble virtually anywhere there’s internet access or app availability.  That makes it easy for tech-savvy teenagers to place wagers via smartphones and tablets, at home or school, 24/7/365.

It’s that technology component that makes gambling particularly problematic. Unlike the abuse of alcohol or other drugs, gambling behavior offers few physical red flags and tech makes it relatively simple to hide online activity. Many signs of gambling addiction in teens are related to behavior. Think falling grades or social withdrawal—and that makes gambling problems even trickier to identify, considering the natural state of adolescent behavior.

Warning Signs of Gambling in Teens
  • Declining grades
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, & activities
  • Seemingly obsessed with sports stats & outcomes (in those with sports gambling addiction)
  • Selling valued possessions
  • Stealing or committing fraud
  • Borrowing money & failing to pay it back
  • Changing eating or sleeping habits

No single sign guarantees a teenager is struggling with gambling addiction, but it’s never too early to get an assessment from a professional. Problem gambling can be treated—and the sooner treatment starts the sooner you can help your teen begin transitioning toward adulthood on a healthier foot.

To find out if a teen you love is at risk, take the simple quiz on our home page or contact a Lancaster- or Lebanon-area Treatment Provider trained to work with at-risk and problem gamblers.

What’s more, Compass Mark offers an addiction prevention lending library for parents. You can also receive free, confidential guidance by calling our team at 717-299-2831.

Additional Teen Problem Gambling Info for Parents

Simulated Gambling Activities Linked to Teen Problem Gambling Risk [Research]
Is Your College Kid at Risk for Problem Gambling? How to Start a Conversation
Does ADHD Put Your Child at Risk for Problem Gambling?


Risky Behaviors Like Gambling, Sex Are Risky Business for Teens [Research]

Gambling and sex are both risky business for teenagers. So perhaps it’s no surprise to find that teens who engage in one of these behaviors may be more likely to engage in the other. For example, young adult men with problem gambling were three times more likely to have fathered a child by age 20, according to a study recently examined by the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER).

The study, which used data from a Johns Hopkins project, examined the behavior of urban elementary school students and followed them through age 22.  Study researchers found social gamblers were about twice as likely to have fathered a child by age 20, while problem gamblers were three times more likely to have done so.

In addition, the researchers found that 19% of the sample could be classified as problem gamblers—a rate far higher than the 3-4% of Americans estimated to struggle with some form of problem gambling.

This isn’t the first study to make a connection between teen sexual activity and gambling. A Johns Hopkins study previously discovered that adolescents who gambled were more likely to have engaged in intercourse by age 18.

Help Kids in Lancaster & Lebanon Make Healthier Decisions

Compass Mark is dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA by teaching kids the life skills they need to make smarter, healthier decisions. Here are two of the youth programs our team offers:

We Know BETter: This awareness program educates students in grades 4-8 about the potential dangers of gambling. The curriculum incorporates age-appropriate activities so children have the opportunity to practice refusal skills and improve coping strategies.

Future Generations: This afterschool and summer program focuses on helping youth harness their creativity and energy in a safe, healthy environment. Future Generations’ kids work on skills that include goal setting, problem solving, conflict resolution, and communication.

Learn more about our programs to guide kids away from risky behaviors (including underage gambling) and into lives full of promise. Contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.