Age restrictions imposed by U.S. states where gambling is legal have not been entirely effective in keeping teenagers from betting on sports and even casino gaming. In a September 18 2023 media release, the Executive Director of Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Addiction Services (TAADAS) reported; “We’re hearing more and more from adolescents who were saying that they were addicted to sports gambling“. Unregulated sportsbooks are partly to blame for young Americans being able to set-up accounts to gamble online. Although, a recent scandal in Iowa has shown that underage athletes have skirted the rules by using their parents’ and older siblings’ identities to register and make wagers from online betting accounts with operators that include DraftKings.
Youth temptation to “join in on the fun” is simply too overwhelming, and it certainly doesn’t help that the activity has become mainstream. Their favorite actors, athletes, musicians and other influencers are doing it, so why shouldn’t they? Did we mention that Disney, who owns an 80% stake in ESPN, is launching an online sportsbook? Consequently, America now has a teenage gambling problem on its hands and your household is rightfully concerned about its underage occupants. As a result, you want to know if there is anything that you can do. There is. Kindbridge Behavioral Health has laid out a youth gambling prevention plan that will help protect the most vulnerable members of your familial circle. Please read ahead.
Powerful 5-Step Plan to Keep the Youth in Your Household from Becoming Problem Gamblers
I. Assess Vulnerability
Youth are already more vulnerable to gambling addiction because their frontal lobes (decision making part of the brain) have not yet fully developed. However, there are also factors that may put them in greater jeopardy than their peers. If they have mental and behavioral health issues such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder and/or are taking certain medications to manage the symptoms of mental or behavioral health issues they are also at greater risk.
II. Monitor and Limit Video Gaming
Research shows that video game players (gamers) are 4.3 times more likely to participate in gambling. Social media influencer Rob Minnick who has made it his mission to spread the word about problem gambling to young adults has been quite vocal about the video gaming and gambling connection.
If the youth in your household are engaged in frequent video game play it’s time to consider the implications of a future gambling problem. You don’t need to outright ban them from gaming but monitor the games they play and manage the amount of time they spend engaged in the activity. For example, video games like Grand Theft Auto have a casino gambling element and should therefore be off-limits as a part of your household’s youth gambling prevention plan.
III. No Fantasy
No matter how you look at it, daily fantasy sports (DFS) is a form of gambling. While there are age restrictions (ahem) to signing up for the DraftKings and FanDuel platforms, major media outlets are promoting Fantasy involvement to youth. For years Sports Illustrated Kids provided fantasy football intel to its young readers, while ESPN Fantasy Sports is rated for users ages 17 and up, although anyone with a mobile device can actually access the app. To put it bluntly, DFS is a “gateway drug” to gambling for youth. Keep your kids far away.
IV. Discuss and Limit Exposure to Gambling Advertising
Early intervention is the key to any effective youth gambling prevention plan. However, you can’t depend on schools to take on this responsibility. As a parent or guardian (or even older sibling) the task lands on you. Open household discussion about alcohol and drug abuse has long been a problem for America, so let’s not make the same mistake about gambling. Talk to your kids about the dangers of gambling every chance you get. There will certainly be many opportunities to do so as they are being exposed to gambling advertisements on a daily basis if your household watches sports on TV (or any cable program for that matter). View our guide for How to Talk to Your Kids About Gambling.
V. Set an Example
You can’t expect your kids to listen to you about the dangers of gambling if they see you gamble and foster a culture of gambling in your household. If you play casino games (even free versions) and/or bet on sports never do it or discuss it in front of underage family members. This may require that you curb your own gambling activities and focus more on healthy alternatives that you can enjoy with your kids. If you are not able to significantly limit or stop the activity, you may need to get help.
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