Many people play luck-based games without developing addictive behaviors. When we are young, we may never have heard about the risks of gambling. But gambling is very different from sports or board games. People who frequently gamble risk escalating the situation and developing an addiction. Young people who fall into the illusion that they have control over winnings and losses are putting themselves at risk for many mental and physical health problems. Here's how young people can quickly overestimate their chances of winning by believing they can outsmart the odds.

Which gambling games are easily accessible to young people?

The legal age for gambling in Canada is 18. However, a proportion of youth under the age of 18 manage to play these games. This is due in part to the development of online games that are easy to connect to. The main games where young people can easily bet money online are:

- Card games like poker and black-jack ;
- Dice games;
- Any other interactive game where the outcome is due in part or in whole to chance.

Gambling promoters are exploiting mobile and Internet technologies to give users the opportunity to play anytime, anywhere. This unlimited access is problematic as it encourages addictive behaviors, as players can log on at any time of the day or night.

What incites young people to want to gamble?

Young people who spend time gambling may start out simply out of curiosity or to follow in the footsteps of others. They may also be drawn to this type of activity because they are driven by risk or because they think that it is a way to make a quick buck. And sometimes the basic intention is not to gamble, but to spend time with people or to make new friends.

When young people first start gambling, they don't think they can become addicted. However, gambling tends to make gamblers believe that it is possible to win through skill or tricks. Young people overestimate their chances of winning and imagine that they have control over wins and losses, when in fact the final outcome is a matter of chance.

Certain behaviors in youth may indicate that their relationship to gambling has become problematic:

  • The amount of time spent playing and the amount of money wagered increases over time.
  • They think that they can win back their losses by playing more.
  • They fail to meet the betting limits that were set at the beginning of the game.
  • They think they have control over the outcome of the game and no longer consider that wins and losses are solely due to chance.
  • They can't resist the urge to play or start playing at night.
  • They feel withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to play.
  • They prioritize gambling over responsibilities.
  • Their school performance is negatively affected.
  • Their relationships with friends and family are deteriorating.
  • They begin to have debt or start borrowing money from others.

What are the consequences of youth gambling addiction?

As with alcohol and drugs, gambling can be addictive for young people. The consequences are different depending on the personality and environment of each youth. But they are not harmless and can negatively impact someone financially, socially, physically or psychologically.

The risk of addiction to gambling increases with the amount of time spent and the amount of money invested. At first, gamblers do not engage in problematic behaviour and find gambling exciting and fun. The vicious cycle begins when a person gambles in the hope of winning back money they lost gambling. And because of the illusion of control that gambling creates, young people tend not to ask for help from those around them, and believe that they can solve their problems... by gambling more.

This gambling addiction has financial and social consequences:

  • Isolation;
  • Deteriorating relationships;
  • Getting in debt;
  • Negatively affecting school and work performance.

Psychological and physical effects can also appear:

  • Anxiety;
  • Insomnia, motor agitation, chills;
  • Stomachaches and intestinal disorders;
  • Changes in personality (loss of interest for hobbies, being irritated, pushing people away, etc.);
  • Depression and depressive thoughts;
  • Increased risk of developing other kinds of addictions (cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, etc.).

Do you think you have a gambling problem?

Or perhaps you know someone who gambles frequently and whose behavior has changed?

Because it is difficult to admit that one has lost control, it is not uncommon for young people to deny the problem. A sense of shame and guilt often accompanies addiction problems. This makes it more difficult for them to choose to seek help. This is why it is important that those around them encourage and motivate them to talk about their problems and to seek help.

As a parent or friend, you can listen to the person without judging or lecturing them. Addiction problems most often occur because of underlying issues (loneliness, low self-esteem, performance anxiety, etc.). Without outside help and support, it is very difficult to get out of a gambling problem. This is especially true because online gambling is so prevalent in Internet advertisements and can be accessed at any time.

Don't hesitate to talk to a health professional or to a youth counseling service. As a matter of prevention, the way gambling works and the risks associated with it are topics to be discussed with your family.

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LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.