Gambling Among Our Youth
Written by: Greg Henderson
Gambling has an established history in our country and community and is seen as a fun and mostly harmless pass time; most people never have issues related to gambling, but many in our state suffer from pathological and problem gambling. IPGAP (Indian Problem Gambling Awareness Program) estimates that roughly 1 out of every 100 Hoosiers qualifies as a pathological gambler and that 2-3 more qualify as problem gamblers. “Problem gambling is gambling behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social, spiritual or vocational.” While this seems like a rather small population the problem is growing, and the largest numbers of new gamblers are adolescents.
This seems improbable, state casinos require proof of age to be admitted and lottery and scratch off tickets are only sold to adults. How then are our children even being exposed to gambling? Social media and video games have become the gateway to gambling behaviors.
Facebook is among the most commonly used social media sites and it hosts a wide array of free games, many of which are gambling types, free slots, poker, and match games are chief among them. the argument for these games being permissible is that no real currency ever changes hands, yet points are being wagered at each turn. These games indoctrinate children and lessen their sensitivity to losing “points”, which is how most casino style games refer to the money deposited in them. Even the themes of many new casino games seem geared towards children.
Video games for home systems are also adding gambling components to many already established titles. Often times these are side games, games within the game that unlock new levels or add bonus points and gear, and have no direct relation to how the rest of the game operates. While no money is being wagered, items that are of value to the player certainly are. Winning at these games gives a false sense of being “lucky” and can motivate some to try their luck with real money, via internet gambling sites.
Internet gambling laws are confusing and complicated, but gaining access to these sites and playing with a credit card is far too easy. In most cases the only proof of age required is a drop down box. With just one click and mom or dad’s credit card children have access to international high stakes betting. There is almost no over site in these virtual casinos and huge sums can be lost in minutes. This is yet another good reason to be active in communicating our values and expectations to our children and to closely monitor what’s on our kids monitors.