Adolescent Gambling Prevention

Proctor Hospital

Youth gambling addiction is growing.
The statistics are alarming. A survey of adolescents found that more than 80 percent of those between 12 and 17 say they have gambled in the last 12 months. More than 35 percent say they gamble at least once a week. Clearly, gambling addiction is not just an adult problem.

Gambling can begin very early.
Young people begin gambling for purely innocent reasons, often at a very early age and with the endorsement of their parents and family. Afternoon poker games, sports betting and participation in sweepstakes, 50-50 drawings and casino nights provide a “stamp of approval.” Like with alcohol and drugs, young people see people they respect engaged in these activities and deem them to be acceptable. When an opportunity to gamble presents itself, they are often more open and accepting of it.

How and where young people gamble.
Most legal gambling is illegal for those under the age of 18. But finding adults to help them gamble, or finding others willing to break the law, is not difficult for the problem gambler. Adults buy lottery tickets for young people for the promise of “a piece of the winnings.” Groups of young people bet on the outcome of major sports events, and even school sports. Card games for money can take place almost anywhere. Bookies don’t ask for identification or report the winnings of their clients.

The impact of gambling addiction.
As with adults, youth gambling addiction can negatively impact every aspect of life, from learning and school performance, to mental and physical health. It can lead to criminal and other anti-social behavior. Studies have found that some young problem gamblers are also fighting alcohol and drug addictions.

Recognizing the young problem gambler.
As with any addictive behavior, there are often clear symptoms of a developing problem. Individually, these symptoms may not indicate a gambling problem. If you suspect a problem, a professional assessment is recommended.

  • Unexplained need for money
  • Money or possessions missing from the home
  • Unexplained charges on credit card bills
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Missing school or classes
  • Frequent anxiety, depression or mood swings
  • Dropping of outside activities and interests
  • Excessive watching of TV sports
  • Undue upset at the outcome of a sports match
  • Late night calls
  • Sudden drops in grades
  • Interest in sports teams with no previous allegiance
  • Calling 900 numbers for sports scores and point spreads
  • Displays of unexplained wealth
For more information:
For more information or to schedule a presentation please contact: Heidi Scuffham, Corporate Services Clinician at 309-360-2571 or email her at

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