Many parents may not mind their kids playing poker, but even those moms and dads know that there are risks. The biggest of those, namely, is the risk of addiction. Ed Looney, executive director of the Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, says that as a rule of thumb, 80% of kids who start gambling will just dabble in it with no further harm, 15% will have some signs of problem gambling (playing past their budget, lying about losses), and 5% will become truly addicted.
While those numbers are estimates, it is a fact that addiction to gambling can be just as ruinous, if not more so, than being hooked on drugs or alcohol. The rate of suicide for gambling addicts, for example, is higher than for any other type of addict.
So is your kid at risk? Here are some good web resources to help you find out.
The most kid-friendly site is thegamble.org, set up by the state of Louisiana to teach adolescents about the risks of gambling. The site features interactive cartoons, games (of skill, of course, not chance), and a self-quiz for adolescents to find out whether they are at risk of developng a problem. The quiz can be accessed directly here.
You can find another solid self-assessment, for kids as well as adults offered by the National Council on Problem Gambling here.
If you think your child (or you) does have a problem, Gamblers Anonymous can direct you to support.
Because the Canadian government sets aside a percentage of their lottery and casino returns toward helping problem gamblers, the best research and counseling services tend to be located there. The latest studies and lots of research can be found at the Web home of McGill University's International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours in Montreal.