The Holiday Gifts You Shouldn’t Give to Your Kiddos: Problem Gambling Prevention

Got your holiday shopping wrapped up yet? (Pun intended!) Well, if you’re still hunting down presents for your younglings, there are a few ideas you may want to avoid: gambling-related toys and games.

What harm can gambling toys & games do to kids?

These types of gifts can increase a child’s potential for developing problem gambling, a diagnosable condition that impacts the gambler and their loved ones emotionally, physically, and financially.

Children and teens who begin to gamble at an early age are at higher risk for gambling problems later in life. However, a specific type of game may be putting even more kids at risk: gambling apps. Many kids’ wish lists include tablets or other mobile devices that give them access to games, including those with gambling themes.

Research suggests that youth who play simulated gambling games—those that don’t require actual money to play—are more likely to report gambling problems. Experts believe this is because gambling-type apps reinforce winning behavior without exposing kids to the real-world consequences of losing. Learn more in Simulated Gambling May Be a Gamble for Kids.

If you give tech gifts this year, engage parental controls to ensure your child can’t access gambling apps.

Other holiday gift ideas can reinforce unhealthy gambling behavior, too. Avoid giving kids gifts like:

  • Casino-themed card or board games, such as toy roulette sets;
  • Gambling-themed items, like slot machine piggy banks;
  • Scratch-off lottery cards.

Signs of Problem Gambling in Children & Teens

Now and throughout the year, stay alert for red flags that suggest your child or teen may have a gambling problem. Signs include:

  • Experiences mood swings based on whether they’ve won or lost;
  • Neglects school or work responsibilities to gamble or play gambling-type apps;
  • Begins hanging out with a new set of friends;
  • Steals or lies for money;
  • Sells prized possessions;
  • Shows a sudden interest in sports stats or scores (in those addicted to sports gambling).

A counselor trained to work with problem gamblers can assess and diagnose at-risk or addictive gambling behavior in a child or teenager. Call Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 for confidential guidance or visit Gambling Treatment Resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.


#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


Virtual Reality Gambling: A Risk to Problem and At-Risk Gamblers?

Imagine a Pokémon-like game combined with gambling in a virtual reality setting. That’s precisely what one company is now trying to deliver to players. One of the leading providers for real-money, skill-based gaming, Gamblit Gaming, announced a partnership with another company to produce a location-based real-money gaming experience.

Gamblit’s website styles its products as “Gaming meets gambling, and everybody wins.” In the new game, players will fight virtual monsters as well as wager on their success. Spectators will also be able to watch and bet on players. The game uses HTC’s VRC (Virtual Reality Cube) and offers “room-scale VR and true-to-life” interactions.

It’s true that many Americans will likely be able to enjoy this or similar games without negative consequences; however, this technology also presents one more potential pathway to gambling addiction for those at risk.

Compulsive gambling is a diagnosable condition that has a devastating impact on the 6-9 million Americans estimated to meet the criteria. It’s been linked to an increased risk for substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, and suicide.

As gambling becomes increasingly available via tablets, smartphones, and other devices, it’s critical for individuals, families, educators, and healthcare providers to become more aware of this addiction, which often flies under the radar. The addition of a virtual reality component to wagers is troubling considering that research suggests the environment surrounding gambling, such as casino lights or sounds, spurs riskier bets.

Finding Help and Resources for Problem Gambling in Lancaster and Lebanon

Whether you’re an educator worried about a student’s gambling or a healthcare provider in need of a patient referral, visit Compass Mark’s Gambling Resources for links to articles, journals, and other help resources.

If you’re struggling with gambling or you’re worried about your behavior but aren’t quite sure if you have a problem, contact our team at 717-299-2831 or use our simple Help Form. We’ll share confidential guidance and resources to help you find a healthier path.


Men Who Gamble More Prone to Violent Behavior [Research]

Men who gamble are more prone to commit violence, according to new findings from University of Lincoln researchers.

The researchers, who surveyed more than 3,000 men in the United Kingdom, discovered that gambling at any level, from casual gambling to compulsive gambling, increased the likelihood they would engage in violent behavior, including domestic abuse. Researchers also found:

  • 50% of those with compulsive gambling (the most serious form of the disorder) and 28% of those who gambled casually had been in a physical fight over the previous 5 years.
  • 19% of non-gamblers reported being involved in violence.

The difference between non-gamblers and gamblers extended to weapons use as well:

  • About 25% of compulsive gamblers and 18% of problem gamblers (those showing several symptoms of the disorder) reported using weapons during violence.
  • Only 7% of non-problem gamblers reported weapons usage.

The study also revealed that problem and compulsive gamblers were the most likely to say they had hit a child or been violent with a partner. Nearly 10% of compulsive gamblers admitted to hitting a child.

According to researchers, the results stayed “statistically significant” even after they were adjusted for mental illness and impulsive behavior.

This study adds to the growing body of research that connects domestic violence and problem gambling. And, recently, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) launched its own survey to find out if there are links between disordered gambling and domestic partner abuse.

Domestic Violence Help in PA

No one deserves physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. If you or a family member is being abused, don’t “wait it out,” hoping your partner gets his or her gambling under control. Reach out for professional, compassionate help now.


Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County at 717-299-9677

Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County at 717-273-7190

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Gambling Addiction Help in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA

If you need to locate gambling help resources, including intervention or treatment, 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.


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.


Maryland Feeling Impact 5 Years After Casinos Open [Gambling News]

Almost five years after Maryland opened its first full-fledged casino, residents, law enforcement, and treatment advocates are starting to tally the growing social cost. City Paper recently chronicled that cost in an article that features the story of a recovering gambling-addicted man who relapsed after a casino opened near his Maryland home.

City Paper’s Sam Skolnik reports:

  • The number of Gamblers Anonymous weekly chapters in Maryland has jumped 31% since 2012.
  • Maryland’s toll-free problem gambling help line fielded 619 calls for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, compared to 431 calls in fiscal year 2013.
  • Maryland’s self-exclusion list, which allows gamblers to voluntarily ban themselves from state casinos, could be an estimated 70% higher in 2015 than 2013. The state’s gaming agency expects about 350 gamblers to sign up this year. (Each state has its own self-exclusion requirements. To find out more about the process in Pennsylvania, see What is Self-Exclusion?)
  • Since 2011, there have been 131 cases of Maryland gamblers violating self-exclusion agreements, resulting in arrest and criminal trespass charges.
  • One 98-year-old woman and at least 13 children have been left in parked cars while their adult child or parent gambled inside Maryland casinos. (Learn more about How Problem Gambling Hurts Families and How to Find Help.)

Gambling Addiction is a Community Problem

Unhealthy gambling behavior takes a toll that goes far beyond the gambler’s bank account. From an increased risk of substance abuse and depression to higher rates of domestic violence and homelessness, problem gambling affects the entire community. Gambling addiction, which is a recognized brain condition, also impacts the workplace because it can be a catalyst for theft and embezzlement. (Read more in PA Woman Addicted to Gambling Embezzles $250,000 from Bank Customers- Tips for Employers.)

In Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA, Compass Mark offers gambling addiction education and prevention, including We Know BETter, a prevention curriculum for kids in grades 4-8. We also offer confidential, judgment-free guidance and treatment referrals. Contact us 717-299-2831 or fill out a Gambling Addiction Help Form.