Gambling has become a socially acceptable form of entertainment and is very prevalent on the internet, smartphone apps, and elsewhere. Today’s youth are the first generation to grow up with gambling all around them.

Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that is causing trouble in your life or the lives of people close to you (like parents, brothers and sisters, or friends). If your gambling is causing you to miss school or work, have arguments with family or friends, or worry about money you have lost, gambling is a problem for you.

Youth gambling often starts as fun. Playing cards or dice, betting on sports pools or video games are common activities among teenagers. Hearing about the high scores or big payoffs that friends have from betting is exciting. It’s always fun to win.

The need to win can turn the odd bet into a pattern of problem gambling behaviours. Many young people who gamble experience problems at levels several times higher than adults who gamble.

Early Exposure and Risk

Gambling at an early age increases the risk of developing an adult gambling problem.

Studies show that adolescent problem gamblers began their gambling at nine or 10 years of age, usually with a parent or other family member.

Parental attitudes, knowledge and behaviour toward youth gambling underestimate the risk associated with early gambling experiences.

Youth and Video Games

Many teenagers excel when it comes to arcade video games. They love the flashing lights, clanging bells, quick action, and excitement. Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) have the same appeal. The instant payout, high action and illusion of control reinforce continuous play.

Research indicates the more frequently youth play video and arcade games, the more likely they are to believe that playing skills are related to gambling success.

This finding is important because children have been taught that practice will make you better.

The reality is that the outcome in gambling is based solely on chance and does not involve any level of skill.

There is no system, no set of skills, no combination of circumstances and no amount of practice that will make someone a successful gambler.

Warning Signs of a Problem

  • Showing off new clothes or other purchases.
  • Forgetting about homework assignments.
  • Skipping classes at school or work.
  • Selling or pawning valuables.
  • Knowing the point spread on games.
  • Organizing sports betting pools.
  • Stealing money.
  • Lying about their activities and whereabouts.
  • Mood swings and emotional withdrawal.

If you are concerned about a family member’s gambling, call the Saskatchewan Problem Gambling Help Line at 1-800-306-6789, or talk to a problem gambling counsellor in your local health region.