When children rush to the tree or their stockings on Christmas morning, what shouldn't they find among the candies and toys? Lady Luck — in the form of a lottery ticket, scratch-off or other gambling game.
These games of chance are often seen as inexpensive, harmless gifts that give children a fleeting thrill. Most win nothing at all, a few win a little something and even fewer win big. No matter what, the odds of a win are very small potatoes when stacked against the odds of developing a gambling addiction.
“The Impact of Gambling in Louisiana: 2016 Study of Problem Gambling,” released by the LDH Office of Behavioral Health, details the most recent gambling statistics among students in grades 6, 8 10 and 12. In the study, students in 2014 reported playing bingo for money and betting on sports, cards, dice and games of skill.
Among the highest gambling incidences were 20.2% of sixth-graders playing bingo for money, 19.7% of eighth-graders betting on sports and 19.4% of eighth-graders playing bingo for money — or roughly 1 in 5 students participating in some form of gambling.
Studies of adults with gambling problems have shown that the earlier a person begins gambling, the more likely they are to develop a gambling problem, especially when scoring a big win at a young age. An article by Renee St-Pierre and Jeffrey Derevensky noted “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 abuse problems.”
“This holiday, if you are considering giving a lottery ticket or scratch-off to a child as a gift, be a Scrooge and DON'T give lottery tickets as a gift,” said Kenneth Saucier, program manager with the Office of Behavioral Health. “Scratch-off cards might seem like a cheap, fun and harmless gift, but that's not the case. Any games of chance can increase risk factors for an addiction problem further down the road.”
Louisiana provides problem gambling resources at no cost to residents. For more information on problem gambling or to set up an appointment to address a problem or concern, call the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867). The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Help is also available at ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/1545 and helpforgambling.org.