There’s a good bet a local teen-ager has placed a wager on this week’s NBA finals. More than 40 percent of all Essex County students admit they have gambled in the past year, according to The Prevention Team. The numbers range from 15 percent of eighth graders to 53 percent of high school seniors.
There’s a good bet a local teen-ager has placed a wager on this week’s NBA finals.
More than 40 percent of all Essex County students admit they have gambled in the past year, according to The Prevention Team. The numbers range from 15 percent of eighth graders to 53 percent of high school seniors.
“It’s important for parents to have a discussion with their children about gambling,” Linda Gerardi, Prevention Team community outreach coordinator, said. “The statistics show one in four boys will develop a gambling problem. We need to help our children understand the risks associated with gambling.”
That’s why the Ticonderoga-based Prevention Team is offering assistance to teens and their families who may be concerned about gambling. The Prevention Team is a non-profit agency that provides alcohol, tobacco and other drug education and prevention services for Essex County.
The Prevention Team is now available to discuss gambling and children. It will make presentations to any parent, community or church group interested in learning more. Interested people can call Gerardi at 585-7424.
The group has also started a series of public service announcements warning about the dangers of problem gambling.
And to extend the message further, The Prevention Team offers a student-produced play that focuses on teen gambling to be performed at schools and other venues.
Gerardi stressed the message is not anti-gambling; it’s gambling education.
“Teens don’t perceive the risks involved,” she said. “They don’t realize it’s more likely to lose than to win. They don’t understand odds and the pitfalls of losing. Teaching kids the consequences of gambling is the best way to help them.”
Today’s teens face greater exposure to gambling than ever before, Gerardi pointed out. The internet has opened up a world of online poker, games of chance, sports betting and more. And gambling that was once illegal, is now flourishing at casinos in Saratoga and St. Regis Falls.
“It’s all around us,” Gerardi said of gambling, “even right here. Every convenience store offers the lottery. It seems like every church and school is holding a raffle.”
Teens can be at the greatest risk in their own homes. Online gambling is especially dangerous, Gerardi said. Many sites offer free games to lure people into playing. Often those free games allow people to win to further entice them.
“It’s very easy to gamble,” she said. “Then, gradually, a problem develops.”
Gambling addictions are real, Gerardi said.
“Many people think gambling is just a bad habit, that they can quit at any time,” she said. “It can be an addiction, just like alcohol or drugs, with psychological and physiological aspects. There are specific treatments for people with gambling addictions.”
Brain scans of cocaine addicts are very similar to those of compulsive gamblers, Gerardi pointed out.
“That means it’s not just a matter of willpower,” she said. “Problem gamblers need help.”
Teens are at greater risk of becoming gambling addicts than adults, according to studies, because they are impulsive, lack maturity, react to peer influence, feel invincible, don’t fully understand the gaming industry and don’t understand the financial implications.
Studies also show teens who gamble are more likely to also have problems with alcohol, drugs and crime.
Gerardi said there are warning signs of problem gambling parents should be watching for — increased time online, increased anxiety and depression, problems with family and friends, borrowing or stealing money, academic problems and personality changes.
Parents should also beware of increased use of gambling terms such as point spreads, favorites, underdogs, etc.
“There’s a lot of help available,” Gerardi said. “If you get help your circumstances will get better.”
People with gambling concerns can contact Gerardi at The Prevention Team at 585-7424 or the New York State Gambling HopeLine at 1-877-846-7369. The St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center in Ticonderoga also offers help to gamblers. It can be reached at 585-7934.