‘Catastrophe’ | Children, teenagers easily become addicted to online gambling, say experts

A recent survey showed that 60-80% of children aged 13 to 17 admitted to gambling at least once in the past year.

ATLANTA As online gambling grows in popularity, research shows more kids are flouting age restrictions and getting hooked.

A recent survey showed that 60 to 80% of children aged 13 to 17 admitted to gambling at least once in the past year.

Arnie Wexler recalls that he began gambling at the age of seven, placing and making money on baseball cards and horse races.

“It became more of a problem as I got older,” he said.

Wexler spent decades addicted to gambling, recalling life moments that were lost to his addiction, such as the birth of his first child.

“When the doctor came out. I didn’t ask how my wife was doing, I never asked how my child was doing, I said, ‘How hard is it?'” Wexler recalled. “He said, seven pounds for an ounce. With a pocket full of coins my wife had given me to call all my relatives and friends when she gave birth, my first call was to the bookies. I bet seven to one on the daily double.”

Wexler placed his last bet on April 10, 1968, and has since started a gambling recovery hotline: 1-888-LAST BET.

He said he was increasingly inundated with calls about young people being hooked on gambling.

“The calls are coming in like crazy from parents of young children who are becoming addicted to gambling,” he said. “Kids do that in elementary school today. It’s a disaster.”

Thirteen-year-old Liam, a fake name to protect his identity, has been gambling on a sports betting app for several months. He said several of his friends do the same.

The app, inconspicuously named Sleeper, requires age verification. But Liam said it was easy to get around.

You don’t actually have to show ID; you just use other people’s,” Liam said. “Younger kids find it really easy; you can just take mom or dad or a family member and then you can spend as much as you want if you have the money.

He said he heard about the app through a TikTok influencer he follows.

He said it made the games more enjoyable,” Liam explained. “He gave you a code, and using that code, I put in $10 and it doubled to $20.”

11Alive Investigators found dozens of TikTok and YouTube influencers who appeared to be sponsored by online gambling apps or shared promotional codes and links.

Follower metrics reveal that many of them have a very young audience, mostly children under the age of 18.

Dr. Adam Goody is the Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia and Director of the Georgia Gambling and Decision Making Laboratory. He said that there is a noticeable trend of young people gambling, especially in the last few years.

The floodgates of online gambling opened in 2018 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the sports betting industry.

“Forms of online gambling or gaming are much easier to access, easier to hide from parents,” Dr Goody said. “The harm of gambling can be really serious. Just as a parent would talk to their child about substance use, alcohol, sexual activity and relationships, I hope they will include gambling.”

He added that gambling is the only officially recognized addiction that is classified as a behavioral addiction, which may be why it doesn’t get as much attention.

“All other official addictions involve taking a substance into the body: alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and others, except for gambling,” Goody explained. “But what they have in common is triggering some kind of pleasure response in the brain.”

Les Bernal is the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a Washington, D.C.-based 501c3 nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness about the pitfalls of commercialized gambling.

“Today we have an epidemic of gambling among teenagers and teenagers in our schools, it’s out of control,” he said. “If this was any other predatory business exploiting our young people, you would have the Attorney General step in to protect the public, especially children.” That doesn’t happen here.

Bernal is pushing for more government regulation around online gambling and how it is marketed.

“This is a government program that openly exploits and cheats its own citizens with a product that science tells us is as dangerous and addictive as cocaine, heroin and opioids,” he said. “The gambling industry is openly targeting young people and the state needs to step in and restrict this as we do other dangerous and addictive products.”

Liam admits it was difficult to control his spending.

You definitely feel like you want to invest more; try again,” he said. “You think, ‘I was so close. Maybe I can this time.’

Experts say that way of thinking is pushing young people to the brink.

“No drug addict or alcoholic ends up thinking that the next drug or drink is going to make their life better, but a gambler still does,” Wexler said. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I was on a computer or phone. gambling. I probably would was in prison. A lot of these kids are in deep, deep trouble.

Dr Goody said there were warning signs that someone’s gambling could become an addiction.

“If you’re constantly thinking about your gambling that’s distracting you from family, work or school, if you find yourself lying to people about your gambling, that’s a really strong warning sign that there’s a problem,” he said, adding “If you’re spending more money or more time to gamble than you planned. If it’s causing problems in your relationships or your responsibilities in life, if you’re chasing your losses, that’s a real clear warning sign. “

Liam admitted that he knew he shouldn’t be gambling.

They just want you to spend money all the time,” he said. “It just gives you a feeling that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.”

The National Problem Gambling Council runs the National Problem Gambling Help Network, offering local resources for those seeking help for problem gambling. The number to call is 1-800-GAMBLER.

The network consists of 28 contact centers that provide resources and referrals to all 50 states and US territories. Help is available 24/7 and is 100% confidential and also includes text messaging and chat services.


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