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May 30, 2024
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Stacking the Odds

Parents Have a Role in Preventing Gambling Problems

Gambling has become a highly visible part of our day-to-day lives. Today's children are the first generation to grow up with gambling all around them. As parents, you have an important role in what you teach your children-directly and indirectly-about gambling.

What are we dealing with?

30% of teens don't gamble

70% of teens do

45% are non-problem gamblers

15% are at risk for problems

8% are problem gamblers

What can Parents do to Prevent Gambling Problems?

Many factors will shape your children's future decisions on gambling. In the same way that you have provided guidance on important issues in the past, you can influence your children about gambling. How you do this will vary with the age of your children, and will be unique to the values and experiences of your family.

What do we know about Teens who Gamble?

They say they gamble for these reasons:

         For entertainment or fun; for excitement or as a challenge; to win money.

         They do not see their wagering as gambling; instead, they see it as a natural part of their leisure activity.

         For many teens who are problem gamblers, gambling has been a common, visible activity in their home.

         Teen problem gamblers had early gambling experience, often with a parent or someone else they admired. (The majority of adult problem gamblers began as youth - by age 12)

         Teens with gambling problems were also likely to be heavier users of tobacco and alcohol, and to have used illicit drugs such as marijuana.

         Much of their gambling involves informal bets with family or friends: cards or board games for money; outcome of sports events; games of skill such as pool, golf, darts.

What are some signs of Adolescent Gambling Problems?

Using money for gambling that was intended for something else.

Betting money they don't even have.

Going into debt because of gambling.

Lying to family or friends about their gambling.

Selling, giving away or losing their possessions (clothing, CDs, CD or tape players).

Stealing money or possessions from other family members or friends.

Missing school to gamble.

Excessively monitoring sports results.

Becoming overly excited or depressed at the outcome of sports events.

Creating gambling opportunities, such as turning games into chances to bet.

Being preoccupied with gambling-related activities.

Losing interest in other activities they once enjoyed.

Some ideas to consider:

Discuss your family's values about money, about competition and about the place of wagering in recreational activity. Be alert to what values your children are developing.

Be clear about your values and attitudes concerning gambling, and communicate these to your children in ways they can understand.

If you gamble, think about what spoken and unspoken messages you may be giving to your children about gambling.

Explain to them what a gambling problem is, using examples they can understand.

Gambling is a problem if it causes financial, personal or other problems for the gambler or those close to him/her. The problems can be occasional difficulties (being late with the rent or a bill payment some month, for example) or ongoing (money meant for day-to-day living expenses is regularly spent on gambling).

Encourage your children to develop a variety of skills and interests in their leisure, and spend time participating with them.

Focus on their strengths to help them develop a strong sense of self-worth.

Develop a trusting relationship with your children, balancing their need for independence with your need to monitor their attitudes and behaviours related to gambling.

What are some signs of Adolescent Gambling Problems?

Many teens see their wagering as "no big deal鈥, and for many that is probably true. The concern, however, is that teens who make gambling a regular part of their recreation now may carry that behaviour with them into adulthood when they will have greater income, access to credit and entry to gambling venues.

If you or your family have concerns you would like to discuss, confidential help is available. For more information contact AFM Gambling Helpline at: 1-800-463-1554 or 944-6382.

Visit our websites at:,,


Youth & Gambling Q & A


When do youth begin gambling?

Gambling has become a widely accepted activity in many cultures. It is not unusual for parents to purchase lottery tickets for their children or to take them to play Bingo. Retrospective studies found that adult problem gamblers reported an earlier onset of gambling, often beginning between the ages of 10-19. A large scale study of adolescents in Alberta found that the average problem gambler started gambling at age 10. Similar results were found in several of our studies, as well as in other studies conducted throughout the world.

Negative consequences associated with adolescent problem gambling

Problematic gambling among adolescents has been linked with increased delinquency and criminal behaviour, as well as the disruption of family and peer relationships. Problem gambling can also negatively affect overall school performance and work activities. While youth may present with different initial symptoms than adults, they nevertheless share similar characteristics. For example, adolescent problem gamblers report a preoccupation with gambling, sacrificing school, work, parental and peer relationships in order to continue gambling.

Reasons for gambling

Contrary to public opinion, research and clinical work suggests that money is not the only reason why adolescents gamble excessively. Rather, it appears that money is used as a vehicle which enables individuals to continue playing. When playing, adolescents with serious gambling problems report that nothing else matters and that they are able to forget about their problems. The three predominant reasons adolescents report gambling (a) the excitement it brings, (b) enjoyment, and (c) to win money. Other reasons adolescents may gamble include peer pressure, to relieve boredom and to relieve feelings of depression.


What has research taught us about adolescents with serious gambling problems

Adolescent problem gamblers:

         are more likely to be boys but girls seem to be catching up

         are overly represented as a group compared to adult problem gamblers

         are greater risk takers in general

         often show signs of lower self esteem

         tend to report higher rates of depression

         often gamble to escape problems

         are more likely to develop an addiction(s)

         seem to be more excitable and outgoing

         are more anxious and less self-disciplined

         are at greater risk for suicide ideation and suicide attempts

         often replace their regular friends with gambling acquaintances

         have poor general coping skills

         report beginning gambling at an early age (approximately 10)

         often recall an early big win

         report more daily hassles and major traumatic life events

         often have parents, relatives, or friends who gamble

         are more likely to be delinquent and involved in criminal activities to acquire money

         develop problems with family and friends

         move quickly from just gambling with friends and family to problem gambling

         show decreased academic performance

Note:   Research is designed to help identify the risk and protective factors associated with gambling problems among youth, as well as to identify effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of youth with serious gambling problems