Some Gamblers Self-Medicate with Mobile/Computer Casino Games [Research]

Almost half of people at risk for gambling problems turn to social casino-type games on mobile devices or computers to cope with negative feelings, according to a study from Southern Cross University.

The study, which was reviewed by the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), revealed that nearly half its sample played social casino games, like poker and gaming machines, to escape from problems or relieve a negative mood. Participants also reported unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce playing, preoccupation with the games, withdrawal, and negative impacts.

Researchers and health care providers, including problem gambling therapists, have long understood that people who struggle with unhealthy gambling behavior sometimes use wagering as a form of self-medication. This research extends that idea to at-risk gamblers playing on mobile devices or computers.

The study doesn’t provide evidence that social casino games trigger traditional gambling, or vice versa. However, it does suggest that health care providers, such as mental health counselors, should be alert to problem gamblers turning to these games to self-medicate gambling urges.

In addition, health care providers should know that previous research has uncovered that people who play practice or no-money games are more likely to bet in higher amounts when they play for real money later. This could be because gambling app practice modes may generate confidence in skill level—a false sense considering that, ultimately, the house always wins. What’s more, there’s evidence that “payouts” for many practice or no-money games are higher than those in real money games, adding to that false sense of confidence.

Gambling Addiction Resources for Health Care Professionals

If you’re a health care provider or other concerned professional, visit Gambling Resources for more information. Are you in the Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA area? Call Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 to learn more about our gambling awareness and prevention programs or to get a treatment referral.


Slots & Poker Apps: Gambling with Addiction? [Research]

People who play digital simulated gambling games were “significantly” more likely to report problem gambling behaviors, according to a recent Australian study.

Social casino gamers is a term that describes people who play simulated casino games that don’t involve real money wagers. Examples include apps that mimic slots or poker games.

The research, which was reviewed on the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), was based on interviews with 2,010 gamblers. The results revealed that 15% of social casino gamers were at moderate risk for developing problem gambling, while 5% were problem gamblers.   Social casino gamers were also less likely to be non-gamblers. The group reported it was more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, too, including smoking and illegal drug use.

As noted in WAGER, the findings don’t necessarily say that social casino games create gambling addiction; it’s possible that people who are already at risk for problem gambling are more attracted to these types of games.

However, it’s also important to consider whether the findings could suggest that social casino gaming puts players at higher risk because it nurtures a false sense of skill. In addition, another study found that people who played free gambling games bet “significantly” more in real money games later than those who hadn’t played the free games. Gambling-like apps may also make gaming much more accessible to youth, potentially increasing their vulnerability to developing gambling problems later in life. Learn more about Kids and Simulated Gambling.

Problem Gambling Resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA

If you’re a concerned health care or mental health professional, visit Problem Gambling Resources, bookmark our Gambling Blog, or follow Compass Mark on Facebook for the latest in news, research, and training opportunities.


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.


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.



Want to Gamble Less? Resolution Do’s and Don’ts

The New Year holiday is a time when many people look to make a fresh start, from cutting calories to spending more time with family. Some folks will resolve to gamble less—and if you’re in that group, these do’s and don’ts will help you get started.

Do’s and Don’ts for Cutting Back on Gambling

Do understand your risk for gambling addiction.
Compulsive gambling is a brain condition, and, as with other addictions, several factors contribute to its development. Take the risk quiz on the SafeStakes home page, or take into consideration that your risk might be higher if you:

  • Have a family history of problem gambling or other addictions;
  • Abuse substances;
  • Have past or current conditions like clinical depression or anxiety disorder;
  • Are going through a major transition, such as divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one;
  • Have experienced abuse or trauma.

If you’re an at-risk person, consider protecting your well-being by choosing not to gamble at all.

Don’t play casino-type apps.
Research suggests that gambling apps—even those utilizing free play modes or virtual money—may prime a player for developing problem gambling. For example, one study found that free play/practice mode games offer much higher payouts than real money games, potentially giving players a false sense of skill. Learn more in Gambling Apps- FAQs.

Do stay sober while gambling.
Hangovers are bad. But a hangover and a $500+ loss? Ouch. The atmosphere at casinos and other wagering facilities makes it easy to consume too much. As a result, you might make poor decisions about when to call it a night. If you’re going to bet, stay sober.

Don’t continue gambling after the fun money is gone.
Think of gambling as a form of entertainment, like going to see a movie or visiting an amusement park. Gambling is never a way to make money—the odds are always in favor of the house. So set a reasonable budget, and when the money is gone, it’s time to stop.

Do play with cash only.
Credit and debit cards make it easier to play past your limit, setting you up for big losses you won’t be able to recoup. Keep the plastic at home and stick to cash to help you stay within a budget.

Do find help if you can’t cut back on your own.
If your attempts to cut back or quit gambling are unsuccessful, seek professional help. A therapist trained to treat problem gambling will assess you and, if needed, develop a treatment plan.

Compass Mark is a Lancaster/Lebanon-area addiction education, prevention, and treatment resource center. If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, let us help. Fill out this help form or call (717) 299-2831. Our guidance is free and confidential.


Gambling Apps: Tips for Parents Giving Kids Tech for the Holidays

Tablet? Smartphone? Laptop? What’s on your child’s holiday list this year? Tech is always a hot item, especially among tweens and teens. As a parent or caregiver, you’ve probably already considered the potential downsides of giving a device to the same kid who can’t remember to throw their dirty socks in the hamper. But there may be an additional trouble spot you haven’t considered yet: gambling apps.

The Problem of Problem Gambling

The earlier in life a child starts to gamble, the higher their risk for later developing gambling addiction, a debilitating condition in which a person cannot control the urge to bet. Researchers have found that the brains of compulsive gamblers show activity similar to that of those addicted to drugs. From relationships to finances, the condition affects every aspect of the gambler’s life—and the lives of his or her loved ones. Learn more in What is Gambling Addiction?

Why Gambling Apps Should Be On Your Radar

Apps for gambling introduce kids and their still-developing brains to the excitement of gambling. One recent study found teens that played simulated gambling games were at higher risk for problem gambling.

Casino-type games, including slots and poker, are easily accessible through smartphones, tablets, and other devices. While game designers and marketers say these apps are not intended for children, few games have effective age-verification systems in place, making it simple for kids to download and play them.

Tech Tips for Parents

  • Know how to use the device’s parental controls. Make time to get familiar with monitoring or blocking features, and learn how to set the controls. If the device doesn’t have them installed already, download blocking or monitoring software.
  • Understand that free-play apps aren’t necessarily safer. Gambling apps that don’t require the use of real money might also contribute to unhealthy behavior. Research suggests that gamblers who play in free-play or demo/practice mode place higher bets later when they wager with real money.
  • Talk with your child about gambling, even if you’re utilizing parental controls. Just because a child or teenager can’t access gambling apps through their own device doesn’t mean they won’t access them through friends’ tech. So just as you’d have a conversation about using alcohol and other drugs, have a discussion about the potential danger of casino-type apps and problem gambling. Make sure you have this conversation with your college-age kids, too!

Learn more so you can help your child make healthy decisions about gambling. Check out:

How to Prevent Teen Gambling—A Parent’s Guide

Gambling Myths—Are They Getting a Teen You Know Into Trouble?

4 Tips for Talking with Your College Kid about Problem Gambling

For additional problem gambling prevention or treatment resources in Lancaster or Lebanon, call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submit this simple help form.


Problem Gambling Prevention: Back-to-School Tips for Parents

For those of a certain age, back-to-school shopping meant buying backpacks, pencils, or Trapper Keepers. While kids will still be loading up on those supplies, many will also go back to their classrooms bearing new electronic devices. Some youth will use those smartphones and tablets to play gambling apps or gambling-type games that could potentially expose them to a life-altering condition: gambling addiction.

The average age for a child’s first gambling experience is 12 years old.  About 65% of youth have gambled for money, and an estimated 750,000 American teens have a gambling problem, according to a national survey.

Several factors put youth at higher risk for developing problem gambling.  For example, their still-maturing brains may exhibit impulsive tendencies that lead to poor decision making. Some may be more vulnerable because gambling provides an outlet for relieving stress, whether that strain comes from academics or the home environment. Yet others are at higher risk because they struggle with a condition like depression or substance abuse, both of which can contribute to problem gambling.

It’s never too late to talk about gambling. Many kids—and, in fact, many adults—aren’t aware that gambling addiction is a medical condition that alters how the brain makes decisions. MRI scans of compulsive gamblers show brain activity similar to that of drug-addicted people. Talk with your child, teen, or college student about the potential dangers of gambling. Check out Teen Gambling: 3 Talking Points Parents Need to Know.

Understand that free-play games aren’t necessarily safer. Even popular social games like Candy Crush have triggered concern among researchers and health professionals. The games introduce youth to the perceived rewards and excitement of gambling-type activities, perhaps priming them for addiction later in life. Learn more in Could Candy Crush & Similar Games Lead to Gambling Addiction?

Put safeguards on devices, when possible. If your child still lives at home, install blocking software that places the browser into a “safe” mode that prohibits visiting unhealthy sites, like those with gambling. Monitoring software will also give you the chance to review a log of his or her browsing history.  Some of these software apps are free; others charge a one-time or yearly fee.

Know the warning signs of problem gambling.

  • Shows decreased performance in academics or other activities
  • Borrows money from friends or family without repaying it
  • Refuses or is unable to account for periods of time
  • Shows increasing preoccupation with games and apps
  • Sells or pawns personal possessions
  • Lies or steals to get money
  • Experiences mood swings based on game outcomes: exuberant when winning, depressed when losing

Reach out for help if you suspect a problem.

Problem gambling is treatable. Contact Compass Mark to learn more about education, prevention, and treatment resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. We’ll direct you to the information and organizations needed to put your child or teen on the path to healthier choices. Call (717) 299-2831, or fill out our help form.


Simulated Gambling Activities Linked to Teen Problem Gambling Risk [Research]

Adolescents who reported playing simulated gambling activities were more likely to report one or more symptoms of gambling-related problems, according to research reviewed on The WAGER (The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report).

The study, which surveyed more than 1,200 Australian adolescents, found that more than 30% had played a simulated gambling activity, like those available through smartphones or social networks. These teens were more likely to be at risk for problem gambling.

While the study didn’t examine whether the simulated gambling occurred before the onset of problem gambling-related symptoms, it’s clear that parents and educators should be aware that teens playing these apps are at higher risk for developing a life-altering addiction. For additional info, check out Can Gambling Become an Addiction?

Other studies have also suggested these types of games could have a potentially dangerous impact. For example, one study discovered that gamblers who played free-play (or practice) mode games were more likely to bet “significantly” higher amounts when they bet on additional rounds with real money. Learn more in Free-Play Gambling Spurs Higher Bets in Real Money Games [Research].

Gambling Addiction in Teens: Warning Signs

  • Spends increasing amounts of time playing gambling-type apps or games
  • Shows decreased performance at school or in other activities
  • Lies or acts evasively about time spent gambling or playing simulated gambling apps
  • Sells or pawns personal belongings
  • Spends less time with family or friends
  • Has unexplained absences from classes or other responsibilities
  • Experiences mood swings based on success: happy while winning, depressed or anxious when losing
  • Commits theft or fraud

Find out if a teen you know is at risk by taking the quiz on the SafeStakes home page.

Visit these resources to learn more about adolescents and gambling apps:

Gambling Apps-FAQs

Gambling for Kids- There May Be an App for That

How to Prevent Teen Gambling: A Parent’s Guide

Are you a parent, educator, or counselor worried about a teen’s gambling? Let Compass Mark help. We’ll point you to education and prevention resources, as well as treatment information for the Lancaster-Lebanon area. Contact our team at (717) 299-2831 or fill out the online help form.


Are Your Kids Playing Gambling Apps? What Parents Need to Know

Over the next week, kids in Lancaster and Lebanon will be loosed upon the world to whine that age-old mantra “I’m bored.” Some children and teens will solve that problem by reaching for games on a tablet or smartphone. No big deal—most of us probably played video games of some sort and we turned out fine, right? The problem is that apps for gambling-type games are increasingly popular.

How is That a Problem?

The excitement of play, allure of prizes, and fast pace have the potential to combine and prime a child or teenager for gambling addiction, a condition that impacts far more than the bank account. Compulsive gamblers are at higher risk for substance abuse, depression, and suicide. The condition impacts every aspect of life, from relationships with family to employment status. Learn more in What is Gambling Addiction?

Casino-type apps, which offer games like slots, blackjack, and video poker, can easily be downloaded to smartphones, tablets (including Kindle Fire), and other devices, such as the iPod Touch. Some apps incorporate themes attractive to kids; think fairy tale characters or cute animals. There’s even a Bible-themed app offering slots based on the stories of Noah, David and Goliath, and more.

Game manufacturers often state the apps are designed for players 18 and older. However, while some games require the gambler to enter their age before downloading, there’s little in the way of robust age verification. Any resourceful child or teenager can figure out how to enter a false date of birth. In other instances, a child doesn’t even need to download the app him/herself—a parent or older sibling may have already done so.

Free-to-play (“practice mode”) apps aren’t necessarily safe either. Research suggests free-play leads gamblers to bet higher amounts when they later play for real money, perhaps because success in practice mode creates a false sense of skill for what is ultimately a game of chance.

Resources to Help You Protect Kids

Teen Gambling- 3 Talking Points Parents Need to Know

Could Candy Crush & Similar Games Lead to Gambling Addiction?

Gambling for Kids? There May Be an App for That

Tips for Parents of Teen Online Gamblers

Find Treatment Resources

If you suspect your child or teen is becoming increasingly preoccupied with gambling apps, contact Compass Mark to learn more about help resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.  Call (717) 299-2831 or fill out this help form.


Parents: Could Candy Crush & Similar Games Lead to Gambling Addiction?

Even if you don’t play social media games, like Candy Crush, you likely know someone who does. While plenty of people are able to harmlessly enjoy these apps, some experts worry that teens who play them are being primed for problem gambling.

What’s the big deal?

Candy Crush and other social games typically offer a free-play mode as well as pay-for-access features. However, regardless of whether the game is free or paid, these activities may introduce youth to the perceived rewards and excitement of gambling. Mark Griffiths, director of Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, said in an interview shared by Mail Online, “When you start winning, you start thinking that if I was playing with real money, I could be doing quite well.” He also noted, “Games like Candy Crush have a moreishness quality, a bit like chocolate. You say you’ll just have one chunk and you end up having the whole lot. So you say, ‘I’ll just play for 15 minutes’ and you end up still there four or five hours later.”

Protect kids & teens from being primed for problem gambling.

Research suggests that the earlier youth begin gambling, the more likely they are to develop compulsive gambling later in life. You can take action—right now—to reduce the chance your child will gamble away their future.

  • Talk with your children and teens about gambling. It’s not enough to monitor what your kids do on your/their devices. Children and teenagers don’t fully understand how much gambling can impact their relationships, academic success, and financial future, so give them the information they need to make healthy decisions. Get tips for starting a conversation in Teen Gambling- 3 Talking Points Parents Need to Know.
  • Prohibit or limit playing time. Limiting screen time is always a good idea, but it’s extra important to be vigilant with games and apps. Use blocking software or parental controls to block gaming websites/apps or limit game-playing time.
  • Monitor activity. Know what he or she is doing with a smartphone or tablet. Regularly check devices, social media activity, and financial accounts to make sure they’re not playing restricted games or spending real money to play.
  • Watch for signs of gambling addiction. Be on alert for declining academic performance, unexplained school absences, borrowing money from others, and mood swings related to game success or failure. Learn more red flags in Gambling Addiction and Kids.

If you’re concerned your child  or teen already struggles with a gambling problem, seek professional guidance. Compass Mark helps families in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA break free from addiction. Our assistance is judgment-free and confidential. Call our team at (717) 299-2831 or fill out this simple help form.

Would you like to see gambling prevention and education in your child’s school? Compass Mark offers a free program for children in grades 4-8. The We Know BETter awareness curriculum uses kid-friendly, age-appropriate activities to help students learn about addiction, practice refusal skills, and improve coping strategies. Ask your child’s school to contact us to learn more.