Gambling Myths – Are They Getting a Teen You Know in Trouble?

I can win this football pool if I know all the players’ stats.

I’m good at video games, so I’ll be good at online gambling.

Those of us who live with or work with teens (or both) understand that the adolescent brain is far from mature. As a result, they’re at higher risk for developing addictive behaviors, like compulsive gambling. Sometimes the seeds for problem gambling are sown in the myths youth believe, including:

Gambling is “no big deal.”

Youth gambling is a “big deal.” First, it’s illegal. In Pennsylvania, the legal gambling age is 21 for casinos and gaming facilities and 18 for the lottery. The consequences of being caught gambling underage can be especially real for student athletes, who may have scholarship or eligibility obligations that require them to stay out of trouble.

Children and teens who develop problem gambling behaviors are also laying the foundation for lifelong addiction. Kids who begin to gamble early in life have an increased risk of developing more severe gambling problems as adults, betting more frequently and experiencing more serious related issues than those who start wagering later.

I play video games, so I’ll be good at video or online gambling.

A video game, whether it’s racing go-karts or battling demons, requires skill, often acquired over time through practice. Online slots and other video-type games of chance are just that: games of chance. Winning or losing does not depend on the child’s level of experience or ability to play strategically. The casino or gambling website is supposed to win—and the games are designed for exactly that purpose.

It’s easy to win if you know what you’re doing.

On average, about 33% of youth in a 2008 study said that practice would make them more successful gamblers. Among 8 to 11 year olds, that number was nearly 50%. Furthermore, almost 20% of youth said that skill could help win even completely random games, such as roulette.

The idea that knowledge is the key to winning is also common with youth who bet on sports. For instance, a teen might feel he has a much better chance of winning if he knows how often a team wins when it plays outdoors in January, or if he knows that Bob All Star sinks every 3-pointer during nighttime home games. The reality is that a game is just that—a game. Anything can happen, regardless of a team or a player’s past performance.

It’s okay because my parents do it.

A home environment that includes regular parental gambling can send the message that it’s fine for the teen to wager as well. In some families, youth may even play games like blackjack or poker with parents and other relatives. Research shows that the children of problem gamblers start playing earlier than their peers. Remember: kids who gamble earlier in life have a higher risk of developing compulsive gambling behaviors later.

I can stop if I want to.

If a youth or teen has tried to stop gambling but has been unable to do so, he or she needs professional treatment. Find the resources to help a youth in Lancaster or Lebanon by calling Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or using the online help form.

Do you work with kids? Compass Mark offers We Know BETter, a problem gambling awareness program for children in grades 4-8.  This free curriculum teaches youth the decision-making and coping skills they need to make smart decisions about gambling. Call (717) 299-2831 to learn more.


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