Scratch Card (and Gambling) Addiction Born from a Christmas Tradition?

For many households, scratch card stocking stuffers are a Christmas tradition. Sales across America increase by approximately 20% through the Holiday season. While your family may enjoy sitting around the hearth while scrubbing off that coating of latex ink with the hope of a windfall, there is an underlying issue to consider – problem gambling. Is scratch card addiction a legitimate concern? Can it really contribute to the development of gambling disorder? Is there anything else you and your household needs to know? To ensure that your stockings are hung by the chimney with greater care, please keep reading.

Why it’s a Good Idea to Skip the Scratch Card Stocking Stuffers for the Holiday Season

Gambling Problem Gateway for Youth

A recent study found that 19% of high school students received one or more lottery ticket or scratch card as gifts, with 86% of them coming from family members. Given that America already has a teenage gambling problem, is it really appropriate to give them something that is essentially a gateway drug for gambling disorder?

We’re certainly not alone in our concern, as this month a number of regulatory bodies across the United States have asked parents (and adult relatives) to put an end to this practice. For instance, this week, the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling issued a statement about giving lottery tickets to youth this Christmas, while the New York Gaming Commission did the same. The list goes on and on.

While the verdict is clear on whether or not youth should be gifted scratch cards, we also suggest that it’s a bad idea for adults. Please read ahead.

A Trigger for Someone Struggling with a Hidden Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling is often referred to as the “hidden addiction” because it doesn’t have visible symptoms like with drug or alcohol abuse. That means someone in your family (or a coworker, etc.) may be struggling with a mild to severe problematic relationship with gambling, with you being none the wiser. Consequently, finding a scratch card in their stocking could trigger them to gamble when they’ve been trying to stop.

If anyone in your household and/or Secret Santa gift exchange exhibits even one of these signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling, give them a Starbucks or Amazon gift card instead.

Positive Association Between Problem Gambling Severity and Scratch Card Gambling Frequency

Carrying over from above, research finds that scratch cards may be more than a trigger for someone who is already trying to curb compulsive gambling behavior. Studies have shown a positive association between problem gambling severity and scratch card gambling frequency.

Lack of Analytic Thinking in Scratch Card Gambling

Using a Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), research has examined how erroneous gambling beliefs can lead to poor decision-making and promote excessive gambling:

The researchers used path analysis to examine if gambling beliefs could explain the pathways from thinking style to gambling problems. The results supported their expectations. Specifically, participants who relied more on intuitive thinking and less on analytical thinking were more likely to endorse erroneous gambling beliefs. This in turn was associated with more severe gambling problems. In contrast, participants who relied more on analytical thinking and less on intuitive thinking were more likely to endorse protective gambling beliefs. This was then associated with fewer gambling problems.”

Gambling Research Exchange

A series of studies examined the relationships between individual thinking styles, participation in scratch card gambling, and problem gambling severity. Participants completed a CRT, a Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), and an Actively Open-Minded Thinking Scale, and self-reported their frequency of scratch card gambling. Negative associations were observed between participants’ CRT and PGSI scores, as well as between participants’ CRT scores and scratch card gambling frequency.

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