Problem Gambling Risks Could Be Higher For Younger Bettors

Posted on July 21, 2022

As gambling accessibility increases, so, too, does problem gambling. Nearly every casino or site offers resources to help problem gamblers, but some bettors may need extra support. Young gamblers could be at a higher risk of developing problems.

Gamblers in Maryland will have another way to wager when Maryland online sports betting eventually launches. While the age limit is 21 to bet on sports in the Old Line State, 18-year-olds have numerous ways to gamble, including online.

Available gaming options for 18-year-olds in Maryland include daily fantasy sports, pari-mutuel wagering, bingo, raffles and the lottery. Young gamblers can also cross state lines to find casinos open to 18-year-olds. There are also online casinos that cater to young adults.

When does gambling become a problem?

It’s important to remember when discussing any addiction that one doesn’t have to do the behavior every day for it to cause problems. Even if someone gambles just once a month, it could still be an issue.

The National Council on Problem Gambling says problem gambling and/or addiction occurs when the habit begins to cause trouble in one’s personal life, job or family relations. According to the NCPG, which relied on information from the American Psychiatric Association that defines gambling addiction:

“The symptoms include increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide.”

On the Your Teen for Parents website, Liz Alterman discussed her son’s gambling habits with Dr. Jeremy Frank, a psychologist from Pennsylvania. Frank said teenage gambling may not always be as easy to spot as issues with drugs or drinking that have physical signs. It’s why problem gambling is called a “hidden illness.”

In addition to a preoccupation with gambling or withdrawal symptoms, Frank suggests watching out for teens lying about their habit of turning to family or friends for financial bailouts.

What young people are most at risk?

According to an article published in the peer-reviewed Psychiatry journal, adolescence, in general, is a “period of development characterized by high rates of risk-taking behavior.” Gambling checks those boxes. Especially nowadays, gambling with family may make the act seem less problematic.

Think of a parent, for instance, having their child participate in game squares or fantasy leagues that have rewards – monetary or not. Those kinds of situations may make gambling seem harmless. Even in homes where gambling doesn’t exist, teens can still become susceptible.

The article shared these risk factors for older teenagers:

  • Having parents or family members with gambling issues
  • Teens prone to impulsive behavior
  • Those who first gambled at a young age
  • Those with substance abuse issues or other disorders, including medical and/or psychiatric

What’s the key to aiding young problem gamblers?

It’s one word: education. Some states where gambling avenues have increased are educating teens and youth about the harm problematic gambling can cause. A recent story by Marsha Mercer for Maryland Matters addressed this.

Wisconsin leaders have offered a class about gambling prevention since 2015. North Carolina created a program called “Stacked Deck” in 2011. It’s six lessons that last 30 to 45 minutes that cover the history of gambling and more. It’s offered to about 36 schools and community centers in the state.

Similar measures in other states have been rejected. That includes Maryland. Republican Sen. Bryan Simonaire has tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would allow the state’s board of education to develop a curriculum on the issue.

So, where can people turn to for help until educational programs become more widespread? Maryland residents can get help via the following national or state agencies:

  • Call or text the national gambling hotline at 800-522-4700
  • Chat with the hotline online at ncpgambling.org/chat
  • Visit the NCPG’s Maryland page
  • Email Maryland’s problem gambling council at [email protected] or visit Marylandproblemgambling.org
  • Call the state’s helpline at 800-426-2357 or find teen-specific help at www.mdproblemgambling.com/help-for-teens/
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Julie Walker

Julie Walker has written, edited and designed words for five Michigan newspapers and websites. She’s worked on two sports desks, including at The Oakland Press and most recently at The Detroit News. Julie has contributed to stories on many big sports moments, from the NFL's 100th season to Super Bowls to Justin Verlander’s trade to the closing of the Palace of Auburn Hills. Julie loves lakes, bonfires, Dachshunds, coaching Little League and carrying on her Dad’s fantasy football legacy that he started in 1987 — before there was an app for that.

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