A quick Google search shows pages and pages of ideas on ways to give lottery tickets as gifts or as decorations for the holidays. This isn’t unusual as gambling is often characterized as being harmless fun. During the holidays well-meaning parents and relatives often give lottery tickets, scratch-offs and other gambling games to children, allowing the child to dream, if just for a minute, of having all the toys in the world.
In reality, no one ever points out that the odds of hitting the jackpot are miniscule. Instead, we are actually, but inadvertently, promoting gambling to our children. According to the Association of Problem Gambling (APGSA), studies show that some of the highest rates of problematic gambling are among young people under age 18. This simple stocking stuffer, given with all good intentions, can help promote problem gambling.
At the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Behavioral Health, we want parents to understand that lottery tickets and other gambling products are NOT suitable for children under age 18. It is our goal to do everything we can to promote healthy families during this holiday season and advise on the potential dangers these gambling products can cause.
Thanks to a constant barrage of video games, fantasy football and “scratch to win” opportunities, children today are bombarded with gaming and introduced to gambling at a very young age. Without prevention education and parental supervision, a child can make poor choices that can lead to negative consequences.
Research shows that an “early big win” can be enough of a trigger to lead a young person to a potential gambling disorder. According to an article by Renee St-Pierre and Jeffrey Derevensky, “disordered gambling among youths is frequently linked with … greater gambling expenditure, academic difficulties, poor or disrupted family relationships, both concurrent and later alcohol and substance use problems.”
Instead of giving lottery tickets as gifts, we encourage parents to educate their children about gambling and its potential problems that it can cause in their lives.
If gambling is causing problems for someone you love, there are resources available at no cost for Louisiana residents. For more information or to set up an appointment to address a gambling problem or concern, please call the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867). The line is available 24/7. You can also visit http://www.ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/1545