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Big risk for youth

July 21, 2009

AHS Communications

Video games can lead to more than just sore thumbs for some kids.

Studies show teenagers can be attracted to video lottery terminals (VLTs) for the same reasons they're attracted to video games - and that concerns provincial experts on problem gambling.

"The flashing lights, clanging bells and excitement of each appeal to youth, and the instant payout, high action and illusion of control reinforce continuous play," says Leely Lew, a program consultant with the Addiction and Mental Health problem gambling unit of Alberta Health Services.

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

"Combine that with increased exposure to gambling through the media and online poker websites and we are seeing more youth exploring gambling opportunities."

According to the most recent Alberta Youth Experience Survey, 62.6 per cent all students surveyed reported participating in gambling activities.

Youth gambling comes in many forms: 41 per cent of students surveyed in Alberta played cards for money, 35 per cent played scratch and win tickets, 28 per cent bet on sporting events and 20 per cent played bingo.

Lew says problem gambling among youth can manifest itself in several ways:

  • Borrowing or stealing money from friends and family.
  • Having unexplained absences from home, school or work.
  • Withdrawing from relationships, school groups or activities.
  • Education is a key tool to combat youth gambling.

That's why the problem gambling unit has created lesson plans for various age groups (available at www.aadac.com/552_537.asp) that are designed to help students understand the negative consequences of gambling and apply critical thinking to false messages about gambling. They were created following consultations with teachers, students and parents.

It's important to get these messages to people at an early age, says Richard Wallington, manager of the problem gambling unit.

"The earlier an individual begins to gamble, the more at-risk he or she is of developing a gambling problem later in life," says Wellington.

"We provide teachers, youth and their parents with the supports and information they need to lower that risk and help them lead healthier lives."

For more information, visit the youth and gambling website at www.aadac.com/124_669.asp.