A Dangerous Game: Teens and Online Gambling Addiction

When Ross started betting on video games, he was only a sophomore in high school. “It wasn’t about the money; it was about the action,” he told Fox News. “When I was betting on anything, it was a rush. It was heaven for me.” By the time he was a senior, Ross was facing debts of nearly US$30,000 and a serious gambling addiction. “I was always gambling and losing,” Ross explained. “I was always chasing that bet.”

With the exponential rise in online gambling sites, and the easy accessibility to them via smartphones, more teenagers are being exposed to gambling. Teens can gamble from the comfort of their bedrooms without needing to show any proof of age—and do so while using their parents’ credit cards.

Most teenagers are more likely to gamble online by Sports betting, poker, casino games and lotteries. Unlike traditional gambling, it is a lot harder to enforce the no gabling under 18 laws. Although, online gambling is illegal a lot of gambling websites have found ropes around the laws to have their website stated in out countries outside the United States. Some teens start out as playing gambling games online without having to pay for their losses. This triggers an addiction and teens that start out by playing with no real money, then get addicted to the real deal.

It seems to be the “norm” for college students to gamble of some sort. A game of Texas Hold ‘Em in the dorm room is a social event opposed to online gambling is more of a private event. To gamble online it only takes a credit or debit card and an internet connection. All college students have access to the internet whether it is off campus or on campus, and most have access to a credit or debit card. It is also a lot easier for a minor to gamble online as well. A study showed that out of 37 online gambling sites a minor was able to register and play 30 of them. Many online gambling sites are triggered towards college students by advertising on social networking sites like Facebook, and some even offer signup bonus to students. One very popular online gambling site even advertises wining tuition money . Online gambling seems to be growing and becoming more of a serious problem among adolescents and college students. In 2002 it was reported that there were 5.5 billion dollars in earnings from online gambling alone. 

There are several reasons why teens or college students start to gamble online and in some cases become addicted to online gambling: someone in the family gambles, problems at home, low self esteem, peer pressure, loneliness/boredom, pain and stress, competition, to win money or to gain attention from peers. Teens are more vulnerable and do not have the kind of control adults have.

Teenagers that have a gambling addiction are more likely to have depression, drug and alcohol abuse, loss of friendship and jobs, lying, cheating, steeling, eating disorder, criminal arrest, big legal and money problems along with a higher rate of suicide. When a teen becomes addicted to online gambling he or she will start spending more time online and less time on schoolwork and relationships with family and friends . In one extreme case at the University of Wisconsin murdered three roommates because he owed them thousands in gambling debts. This student lost $15,000 in gambling and withdrew $72,000 from his bank before he committed the murder.

Know the warning signs

Know these warning signs that you may be developing a gambling addiction

  • Making more bets to try to win back lost bets
  • Pawning items or stealing money for gambling
  • Dramatic mood swings connected with winning and losing
  • Missing important events to gamble
  • Lying about how much money you’re losing or how often you are gambling
  • Believing that gambling is a good or easy way to win money
  • Using gambling to cope with loneliness, stress or depression
  • Frustration when daily life interferes with gambling
  • Spending more time at online betting sites
  • Carrying dice, cards or poker chips with you
  • Carrying large amounts of cash that you have won
  • Carrying large amounts of cash for gambling
  • Gambling with money intended for lunch, the bus, gas, etc.
  • Skipping class or homework so you can gamble

Resources that can help

If you or a loved one has a gambling problem, help is available. Resources include:

  • Gambler’s Anonymous: A 12-step program aimed at helping individuals overcome gambling addiction.
  • Gam-Anon: A support group for parents and families of children with gambling issues.
  • A therapist specializing in gambling addiction. Parents can find therapists through Psychology Today, a child’s pediatrician, or their insurance company.
  • State helplines. Googling your state and “problem gambling.” States like New York have resources for those with addiction and their families.

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