A few decades back, it never seemed feasible that children could fall prey to a gambling addiction. With casinos enforcing strict “21 And Over” policies and hard regulations for lottery ticket sales, it just wasn’t a legitimate concern. Now, however, the accessibility of online betting is beginning to change that scenario and illustrating a sharp spike in young gamblers, particularly between the ages of 12 to 17.
According to recent stats provided by NBC affiliate WHEC, 39 percent of kids under the age of 18 have tried gambling. Astonishingly, 30 percent say they’ve placed bets before the age of 10. And the number one culprit of it all? You guessed it. Online apps and websites; full of slot machines, poker games and sports wagering.
WHEC’s study points the finger at several of these sites’ operators. Often times, they are disguised as gaming destinations and hide their true nature with colorful characters and movie tie-ins. But don’t be fooled, addiction specialist Jennifer Faringer warns. These are dangerous gateways into overspending.
“When kids start to gamble, often they don’t even realize they’re gambling because they call it gaming,” Faringer explained to the outlet. “These are almost practice sites for kids to teach them essentially how to gamble. They’re doing it initially for no money and then they experience wins. Then all of a sudden there’s an opportunity that pops up and says now enter your credit card number and you can turn those wins into financial wins… then the game flips.”
Several doctors interviewed for the piece have tied this type of behavior with teenage depression. They believe that these online bets are somewhat of a “silent addiction” since, unlike drugs or alcohol, they don’t cause users to exhibit outward personality shifts.
And let the record state that it is 100 percent illegal to place bets online if you are under the age of 18. Many children are committing fraud with this type of behavior, borrowing family credit cards and lying about their ages. The piece goes on to warn parents about suspicious charges on their bills, as well as a drop in academic performance.
WHEC reporters shared warning signs and new research in an online clip about underage gambling. We’ve posted it below and certainly advise any parent (or teen) who is struggling, to watch it in full and reach out for the appropriate help.