Information on Youth Gambling

Why Lottery Tickets are Inappropriate Gifts for Youth:
  • Children’s brains aren’t developmentally mature to understand the risks involved
  • Most adults can equate a lottery win as a stroke of luck or random chance but children have a harder time putting a win to perspective
  • For children, research has shown that lottery games can act as a gateway to more problematic forms of gambling
  • When a lottery ticket is presented as a gift by a trusted parent or other family member, the child is likely to interpret the gift as saying “this is a safe thing for you to do.”

Source: National Council on Problem Gambling

Studies show a growing number of high school students receive one or more lottery tickets to scratch cards as a gift. Teens gamble at least occasionally and lottery products maybe a gateway to problem gambling. Source:

If your children are gambling — but not using drugs, smoking or drinking ­— you may think there’s no reason to be concerned. But given that gambling can become an addiction — and is statistically more likely the younger a person first gambles — you should be.

Gambling is not a safe alternative to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. While most people can gamble safely, for some it can become an addiction that’s devastating to both the gambler and their family. 

Here are some things you should know about gambling:

  • Gambling addiction is a disease that can affect anyone
  • People with a gambling problem may spend money they can’t afford to lose
  • People with gambling problems might spend excessive amounts of time gambling
  • A gambling problem can affect many parts of someone’s life, such as school, work, friendships, family relationships and hobbies
  • With the right information and help, young people and parents can overcome gambling problems
  • Children and adolescents tend to model their behavior based on behaviors of others, whether parents, friends or role models.

Source: Partners in Prevention, International Centre for Youth Gambling and Problems & High-Risk Behaviors.

Facts and Figures about Youth Gambling

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 10 to 15% of young people have significant gambling problems compared to fewer than 4% of adults. And today, more youth than ever before are developing gambling problems.

Eight percent of adolescents 12 to 17 years old are considered problem gamblers. Problem gamblers say they began gambling at about 10 years of age, on average.

A University of Minnesota survey indicated that youth are at four times the risk of adults for developing pathological (compulsive) gambling. Six percent of teens who have tried gambling develop the most severe form of gambling addiction (pathological gambling) compared to about 1.5% of adults.

Youth gambling has been shown to be linked to other risk taking and addictive behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and drug use.

Adolescents gamblers have a higher rate of depression, suicide ideation and attempts.

Males are more likely to gamble and do so more frequently. Males have higher gross wagers and have higher gross winnings.



Protective Factors

  • Strong self esteem
  • School connectedness
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Strong social skills
  • Positive family cohesion and bonding
  • Connectedness to community
  • Significant relationship to an adult other than a parent

Risk Factors

  • Easy access to substance or gambling activity
  • Use among peers
  • Parental or sibling abuse of gambling
  • Family conflict, lack of parental supervision
  • Frequency of activity
  • School problems
  • Impulsivity, sensation seeking
  • Early initiation to gambling

Possible Youth Gambling Indicators

The following are signs of problem gambling that suggest counseling should be sought.

  • Gambling frequently on things like cards, dice, games, sports or online sites
  • Lying about how much was gambled
  • Gambling has become the favorite (or only) activity
  • Trouble concentrating on homework or other things (thinking about gambling)
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs
  • Borrowing or stealing money to gamble
  • Missing important events or sneaking out of them to gamble
  • Arguing with friends or family about gambling
  • Thinking that most problems would be solved by getting a big win
  • Thinking that gambling is an easy way to make money
  • Thinking that the odds can be beaten (“I am a good gambler”)
  • Making more bets, assuming that money lost can be won back
  • Feeling the need to bet more and more money

Quick Facts on MN Student Gambling

  • About one in three students in grades 8, 9 and 11, and about one in five 5th graders reported gambling during the past year.
  • The most popular gambling activity was playing cards and betting on sports teams or games of personal skill – 27.5%. Buying lottery tickets or scratch offs was the next popular form of gambling – 9.9%.
  • Male students were twice as likely as females to report gambling during the past year and to have gambled more frequently during the past year.
  • Students from low-income households were more likely to have gambled frequently during the past year.
  • Students who have gambled during the past year were more likely than non-gambling students to report smoking, drinking and illicit drug use.
  • Students who have gambled frequently during the past year were more likely than those who gambled less frequently to report smoking, drinking and illicit drug use.
  • Statewide, the prevalence of problem gambling is estimated to be 0.5% among students in grades 8, 9 and 11.
  • Male students were more likely than females to be screened as problem gamblers (0.9% vs. 0.2%).
  • Students from low-income households were twice more likely than their more affluent counterparts to be screened as problem gambler s(0.8% vs. 0.4%).
  • Students who were screened as problem gamblers were almost nine times more likely than their counterparts to have a substance use disorder (28.7% vs. 3.3%).
  • Students who were screened as problem gamblers were more likely than their counterparts to report suicide ideation and attempt during the past year (26.0% vs. 11.7%; 15.6% vs. 3.5%).
  • Approximately 70 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have gambled at least once in the past year, the highest percentage in our nation’s history.” (Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, quoted in Current Health 1, February 2006).

Source: Minnesota 2016 Student Survey

March is Problem Gambling Month