How gambling affects
different age groups
Problem gamblers fall into three groups—children age 10 and above, adults age 24-55, and seniors.
The growth of underage gambling in the home is troubling, while adults are increasingly exposed to gambling venues, putting them at risk of becoming pathological gamblers. Finally, seniors are targeted by casinos with exciting offers of free food, alcohol, rooms and transportation that encourage them to spend more time gambling. Learn more about these groups and their vulnerabilities, below.
Children Age 10 and above
There is nothing innocent about gambling at an early age.
The current generation of youth has easier access to gambling activities than ever before. Advertising on social media, TV, movies, billboards, and the radio promote gambling as a rite of passage from youth to adulthood and an easy way to make money. It is not uncommon for youth to gamble at home with the full permission of their parents. Family poker games, sports betting, gifts of lottery tickets and scratch-offs are seen as harmless forms of entertainment. Mobile or online games that allow kids to “gamble for free” are legal so therefore parents think of them as benign amusement.
Parents allowing youth to participate in seemingly innocent gambling games at an early age risks more than just their allowance. Gambling as early as age 10 or 11 may appear innocent and harmless, but studies have shown that children who began to gamble by the age of 12 were four times more likely to become problem gamblers. Young brains are naturally attracted to risk as part of their development, but they are not yet able to weigh the risks they take versus long term consequences. According to Delaware’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2015, youth that gamble are more likely to participate in other high risk activities such as:
- smoking cigarettes
- drinking alcohol
- using prescription drugs
- texting while driving
- selling drugs at school
- having risky sex
- bullying or being bullied
- carrying a weapon at school
- having planned or attempted suicide
Delaware Council on Gambling Problems strongly recommends parents have a conversation with their children about the dangers of risk-taking with potentially harmful activities, including underage gambling.
Adults age 24-55
The DCGP provides prevention and treatment services for diverse populations between the ages of 24 and 55 with the goals of raising awareness of problem gambling and providing effective treatment for problem gamblers and their family members throughout the state of Delaware. Individuals within the ages of 24 and 55 are generally working and have access to discretionary funds and these funds, at times, are used for gambling. Although most people who gamble do so without negative consequences, approximately 5% of individuals engage in problem gambling. This problem, quite often, remains undetected or inadequately recognized and causes serious emotional, familial, occupational, and financial damage.
Problem gambling for this age group is characterized by:
- Onset of gambling activity at a young age, as early as prior to 10 years old.
- Have gambled on many different venues but will typically have a favorite.
- Possibly gambled for decades before it became a serious problem.
- Difficulty accepting gambling behavior as a problem and as a consequence, will live in denial for long periods.
- Maintaining long term recovery can be very difficult and is characterized by multiple relapses.
- Considerable amounts of time and energy are utilized in justifying gambling activity, and therefore, delaying the acceptance of it as a problem.
- Causing many serious problems with immediate as well as extended family members.
This group is attracted to gambling as a form of entertainment, similar to going out to movies. Unfortunately, increased exposure to gambling venues for extended periods of times can lead individuals in this age group to problem or pathological gambling.
The fastest growing segment of Delaware’s population is our senior citizens, who are also the fastest growing segment of our gambling population. Many seniors suddenly find themselves with a lot of free time, usually the result of retirement from long established jobs and living patterns built around them, usually with access to the funds which make them priority targets for the very effective marketing efforts of casino solicitors.
For most seniors, gambling is a source of entertainment, a chance to be with other seniors in an exciting and seemingly affordable environment and helps fill the now available free time retiring gives them. The senior center or other facility they frequently start attending usually offers trips to a casino and the casino’s club system takes over and begins to provide them with the special treatment they are likely looking for. This system provides the gambler with free membership and a card to easily provide telephone access to casino hosts to call to easily set up their gambling trips while also tracking their gambling and provides them VIP treatment. It usually also includes free meals, alcohol, transportation and rooms and is structured to encourage increasing gambling with enhanced rewards at higher levels of gambling. However, for many of the 5-10% of them who are “at risk” gamblers and likely to become compulsive gamblers, it is likely to turn out badly. The result for many of them is likely to turn out like the gambler quoted below:
“I began to go to Atlantic City for something to do. The excitement and casino atmosphere helped me to forget my loneliness and troubles. I took an $80,000 line of credit on my retirement home for money to gamble with, lost the money and my home.”
The DCGP recognizes the seriousness of this problem and has developed a program to go out to senior centers and inform seniors about the risks of this “hidden addiction”. The program talks to seniors about this addiction that takes over and can ruin the lives of so many of them.
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