What are the odds your teenager is gambling? Unfortunately, those odds are 50/50.
Why is this unfortunate? A fair question, since many people enjoy occasional gambling as a recreational activity without suffering any negative consequences. In fact, it's the right of any adult to engage in any legal gambling activity.
The law, however, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from engaging in any form of gambling-which makes it illegal. It's that simple. Wouldn't it be unfortunate for your adolescent to encounter legal problems as a result of something intended just for fun?
We know there are people among us who are more susceptible to developing gambling problems. The New York Council on Problem Gambling explains it this way: "A problem gambler dedicates more time, thought and money towards gambling. Pathological gambling is a progressive disorder in which an individual has a psychologically uncontrollable preoccupation with an urge to gamble, resulting in damage to vocational, family and social interests."
One way teens, as well as adults, get pulled further into this situation than they expect is by participating in social or recreational activities that are not commonly looked at as gambling. It's easy to recognize a poker game or betting at the track as gambling. But what about a raffle, a few scratch-offs or a Super Bowl pool? These meet NYCPG's definition of gambling: "any activitywhere an item of value is placed at risk in an attempt to gain something of greater value." As such, to a person of any age with a predisposition for a gambling addiction, these seemingly innocent activities are enough to set the wheels in motion for some real trouble. And the earlier a person becomes involved with any addictive substance or behavior, the more likely it is that an addiction will develop. Sadly, when this happens, they have to spend their teen years battling that addiction. Wouldn't it be so much better to see your teen reach adulthood without having to face such difficult issues?
Fortunately, there is help available for adolescents and adults dealing with problem gambling, by calling the NYS Hopeline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369). Call 292-0414 to find out about the support and help available through Gamblers Anonymous with weekly meetings locally. HFM Prevention Council provides information and resources at 86 Briggs St., Suite 5, in Johnstown or at 736-8188.