What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that has a bad effect on your life or the lives of people close to you - parents, brothers and sisters, your friends. The National Council on Problem Gambling says problem gambling is "gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational."  The term "Problem Gambling" includes, but is not limited to, the condition known as "Pathological" or "Compulsive" Gambling.

If your gambling is causing you to fall behind on your schoolwork, have arguments with family or friends, or worry about money you have lost, it is considered to be "problem gambling". Help can be found 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by calling 1-877-MYLIMIT.

Why should I be concerned about youth gambling?

Adolescent brains offer a perfect environment for gambling with their preference for high activity low effort/high stimulation. Add to that the fact that parents and schools often aren't talking to kids about the risks, and you can see why there is concern. Too often we hear "Kids gambling too much? No way--if they were we'd know it" yet data from the Oregon Healthy Teens survey and other research tell a very different story: Most Oregon adolescents (63 percent) have gambled; their preferred games include free Internet gambling-type games, cards (poker), sports bets, and games of personal skill (Volberg, 2008). One youth per classroom already has a (hidden) gambling problem (Volberg, 2008).

Teen problem gamblers have higher rates of:

  • Alcohol & binge drinking (Student Wellness Survey, 2010)
  • Drug use, including marijuana (Student Wellness Survey, 2010)
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts (Student Wellness Survey, 2010)
  • School problems (e.g., lower grades, truancy, behavior issues; Student Wellness Survey, 2010)
  • Violent behavior (Oregon Healthy Teens, 2009)
  • Risky sexual behavior (Oregon Healthy Teens, 2009)
  • Family problems (e.g., withdrawal, behavior issues)
  • Peer relationship problems
  • Legal and money troubles
  • Depression
  • Dissociative, "escape" behaviors
  • Risk for other addiction(s), including alcohol and substance abuse
What can I do?

Talk about the risks of gambling and provide alternative activities.

  • Include gambling in conversations about drugs and alcohol. Gambling can be another form of addiction.
  • Talk about the odds of gambling, how it is not a predictable way to make money, and how more people lose than win.
  • Promote lower risk leisure activities that do not involve betting for money.

Watch for possible gambling problems. Here are some signs:

  • An increase in risky behavior or decline in performance at school and in sports.
  • Spending less time than usual with family or friends.
  • Worrying about money lost or wanting to play more to win it back.
  • Money or valuables are missing.

Additional resources are available in the Supporting Documents and Links at the bottom of this page.