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Take This Bet! Or, Maybe Not...

By Will from Holland

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Life is full of risk. We take chances all the time. It's a part of life! We gamble when we start our own business, or when we decide to walk to school or drive a car.

But get this: A lot of high school and college-age kids really gamble; online poker, 1-900 betting numbers and lotteries—you name it.

  • According to a FoolProof survey, about 22% of students said they sometimes gamble for money.
  • 59% of these students said they know someone that gambles a lot.
  • According to the Harvard School of Public Health and Annenberg Public Policy Center, gambling between 18-21 year-olds has risen 600% in a four-year period!

For many young people, that's okay. They see gambling as entertainment, like going to a movie.

But get this: One 16-year-old lost $6,000 (four years of newspaper delivery earnings) on the lottery in a single day! Young people who start gambling as teenagers are two to three times more likely than adults to become problem gamblers. And get this scary statistic from the National Council on Problem Gambling; about 14-19% of teenagers are at risk of developing a gambling addiction!

Exactly what is a gambling addiction?
If gambling interferes with a person's life routine, that person may have a gambling problem. For instance:

  • Making bets when there's not enough money to pay bills.
  • Withdrawing from friends because gambling has become more important.
  • Missing school or work because of gambling.

Are certain people at higher risk of developing gambling problems than others?

  • Athletes and young men are at great risk.
  • Having family members who gamble a lot or have substance abuse problems increases risk.
  • Young people who do poorly in school or have behavioral issues are at higher risk.

How can you recognize a gambling problem in a young friend or family member?
Recognizing just one of the signs below isn't a big deal, but if you can identify several, there could be a problem. Do you know someone who:

  • Talks about gambling a lot or knows a lot of gambling terms?
  • Carries gambling stuff around (casino sheets or lottery tickets)?
  • Has disproportionate or mysterious amounts of money on hand?
  • Has an extreme need for money and has difficulty explaining personal debts?
  • Talks about regretting gambling losses?
  • Frequently borrows money or has begun selling personal belongings?
  • Steals or commits other criminal acts to get cash?
  • Has an abrupt reduction in school performance or skips school frequently?
  • Has an unexplained change in eating and/or sleeping habits?
  • Has a sudden change in friends or withdrawals from activities that they previously enjoyed?

What should you do if you think a friend, family member, or even you, yourself have a problem?
Talk to someone. A safe first step would be to call the national gambling problem hotline. It's a free number and automatically connects you to help in your own state. Also, it's totally anonymous. Call 1-800-522-4700, 24 hours a day.

Prepare yourself to handle gambling responsibly.

Young people have enough trouble with money. Don't let gambling pull you in to even worse problems!

Cheers, Will.