Excitement of March Madness Provides a Teachable Moment for Young Sports Fans

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National Council on Problem Gambling - Whether you are watching the games or have filled out brackets with your family, March Madness provides a teachable moment for young sports fans.

Whether you are watching the games or have filled out brackets with your family, March Madness provides a teachable moment for young sports fans. It is never too early to talk to kids about the risks of gambling on sports. Why? Reports in the past month from Oregon and Oklahoma provide important reasons.

Two-thirds of Oregon adolescents (12-17 years old) have gambled. They start early—more than 1/3 of 6th graders had gambled. More Oregon youth reported gambling in the past 30 days than had used alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. Youth who gamble are almost twice as likely to engage in alcohol use and binge drinking and are more likely to skip school, smoke and use marijuana. The study also found that parents and teachers don’t talk as much to kids about gambling as they do about other risk behaviors, partly because they are not aware themselves of the potential risks, nor of the degree to which kids are gambling.

Out of a sample of more than 1,000 high school students from across Oklahoma, 50% have at least one person in their family who gambles. Almost one-quarter report they gamble “sometimes”. Sixteen percent say they have gambled on a “free” internet gaming site, and one in ten have gambled for money online.

Fortunately, most young gamblers never develop a problem, but some do. To help prevent a problem, here are five simple things to know and discuss with children:

     •Know the law: Minors are prohibited from most forms of gambling. Make sure you know what is legal and what is not in your state.

     •Know the health risks: Kids who gamble are at risk for developing a gambling addiction,
     and are also much more likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as drinking,    
     smoking and using drugs.

     •Know how to gamble responsibly: Set a limit of time and money spent gambling. Don’t
     gamble to escape feelings of anxiety, stress or depression.

     •Know the warning signs of a gambling problem: Preoccupation with gambling, chasing
     losses, loss of control, negative consequences such as unexpected need for more money.

     •Know where to get help: The National Problem Gambling Helpline 800.522.4700 is a toll
     free and confidential connection to local help.

NCPG and our 37 state affiliate chapters are leaders in problem gambling prevention and treatment. Call 202.547.9204 to schedule an interview or arrange presentations on problem gambling rates, consequences, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction among youth.

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