Because it can create a thrill, a rush of excitement, more Garden State teenagers than you might imagine are participating in some kind of gambling activity.
According to Felicia Grondin, the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, the recent rise in teen gambling is concerning because it can lead to destructive behavior.
She said a recent study was conducted on gambling attitudes of middle and high school students and “we found that about half of the students that we surveyed did in fact gamble, not necessarily online or at a casino, but engaged in some form of gambling.”
Why more kids are gambling
Grondin pointed out gambling can create an adrenaline rush and “it’s much more socially acceptable than it ever was, especially with the proliferation of gambling across the country, whether it be casino, lottery, sportsbook, any form of online gambling.”
She said a Columbia University study finds teen gambling rates are 2 to 4 times the rate of adults, which is not good because “they are not at a point in time where they can recognize how their gambling behavior can create negative consequences.”
What to look for
She said unlike problems with alcohol or drugs, it can be harder to spot a gambling addiction, especially in a younger person, so parents need to watch “for a preoccupation with gambling, they should keep their eyes open with regard to whether their child is borrowing money or selling personal items.”
She said other signs of a possible issue include:
- Adopting gambling language
- Unexplained school absences
- Neglecting chores
- Declining grades
She said a teen gambler may also express suicidal thoughts.
“One in five individuals with a gambling problem will be thinking about suicide. It’s one of the highest rates of suicide, (for those with an addiction)” she said.
Grondin noted other signs of trouble include withdrawal from family and friends, lying or if the teen suddenly has large amounts of cash in their room.
They may also develop what is known as a “cross addiction” with alcohol or drugs.
Hard to quantify
She said no one is really sure how many underage teenagers are illegally placing bets in the Garden State but “it’s very possible (they are) and if they’re prone to gamble they will be more apt to do so.”
Grondin pointed out when people start gambling at a younger age they are more likely to develop a gambling addiction that can spiral out of control and haunt them for the rest of their lives.
She noted the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey is neutral on gambling.
“Our purpose is to help those that are having a gambling problem and to get the word out to prevent people from developing a gambling problem.”
For more information you can call 1-800-GAMBLER or visit the 800gambler.org website
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.