America Has a Teenage Gambling Problem

Highschool students in the USA are already facing a number of mental health challenges. These include (but are not exclusive to) anxiety, depression, stress, ADHD, and eating disorders. Across a wide number of states, approximately 13% of those aged 12-17 have already experienced a Major Depressive Episode (MDE). Do lawmakers of America really need to compound their concerns? That’s exactly what many are doing after the federal ban on sports betting was lifted in back in 2018.

At press, 68% of U.S. states have legal sports betting. While the age limits for the activity by state range from 18-and-over to 21-and-over, very little is being done to shield teens from the culture of gambling. In fact, they are being groomed by operators to become the next generation of bettors. Research shows that between 60-80% of high school students have already gambled for money. It’s safe to say that the country is on the verge of a very serious teenage gambling problem.

As a parent or guardian you’re on the frontline of defense. Preventative measures begin with you. Are you prepared to protect your teenagers from developing gambling disorder in the very near future? Unless you’re an expert gambling disorder therapist, probably not. Fret not, because that’s what we’re here for. Below is your guide to helping keep teens safe from the dangers of sports betting and casino gaming.

5 Steps to Protecting Your Teenager from Developing a Gambling Problem

I. Talk to Them About Gambling Advertising

As alluded to above, American youth of today are more vulnerable than all prior populations primarily due to their exposure to sports betting and gambling advertising. Regulations regarding sports betting advertising have already failed them miserably. During popular sporting seasons such as the NFL playoffs and NCAA March Madness your kids are exposed to an onslaught of gambling marketing communications that feature their favorite influencers.

As a parent, you need to initiate conversation about these communications so that they are provided context about what they are seeing, and understand the consequences of the promoted activities. Nip problematic “consumer” behavior of this nature in the bud before it’s too late. Follow these 10 Tips on How to Talk to Kids about Gambling Advertisements.

II. Don’t Gamble Around Them

It’s already common knowledge that to help keep teens from developing a substance abuse problem early in life, parents must set a positive example. How can you expect your teen to listen to you about the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances if you frequently drink, smoke, and consume them while around them? The same is true of gambling.

Take an oath to not be hypocritical when it comes to gambling. If you bet on sports and/or play casino games, never do it in front of underage family members. Furthermore, don’t even tell them that you’re going to a casino, and don’t let them hear you jabber about wagering today’s point spreads and moneylines. In addition, swap family vacations to Vegas or Atlantic City (or even Ohio at this point) for healthier retreats that offer plenty of outdoor adventure together.

Simply put, don’t foster a culture of gambling in your household.

III. Remove Gambling Apps and Block Access on Household Devices

By default, teenagers are the leading experts in digital technology in your household. As a result, the dangers of the outside world (including sports betting) are no longer only in the streets, but online and just a tap and swipe away. You may have blocked access to adult-only sites (i.e. porn) in the past, but have you added sports betting, fantasy sports, and casino gaming apps and websites to that list?

Effective immediately, remove all existing gambling apps and bookmarks from your household’s devices, and install software that blocks access. Gamban is an option, but feel free to do your own research on the matter.

IV. Get Them Involved in Sports

Ironically, one thing that can keep your teens away from a sports betting problem, is regular participation in organized sports. Among the Positive Impacts of Sport on Youth Mental Health, are a sense of belonging and inclusion, physiological releases to alleviate anxiety and stress, and better decision making processes. In the absence of these beneficial outcomes, the table is set for problematic gambling behavior.

V. Ensure Responsible Gaming Too

Did you know that video game players (gamers) are 4.3 times more likely to participate in betting? You may have thought (or not) that your teen’s hours spent engaged in video game play was harmless enough. However, when you consider the implications of a future gambling problem, you may need to press pause on the gaming system. You don’t need to outright ban them from gaming, but monitor the games they play and manage the amount of time they spend doing so when under your roof. Specifically, keep video games that literally promote gambling such as Grand Theft Auto out of the house. Otherwise, provide them with guides to responsible gaming for popular games such as Overwatch and the like. Video games can be a gateway to teenage gambling if not managed with parental care.

The sports betting and casino industry is grooming the next generation of gamblers, beginning with teenagers who are just a few short years (or months) away from being able to place legal bets. In response, greater access to problem gambling support is required to assist with the at-home steps that we’ve laid out for parents above.

Concerned Families, Educational Institutions, and Young Americans:

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


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