March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and each year more young people are involved in gambling. Both adults and children are at higher risk for problem gambling each year due to increased gambling opportunities and of online gambling. According to NYCPG, in the past 12 months, 39.5% of 12-17 year olds have gambled (2022). While gambling and online gambling can be a fun and risk-free pastime for many adults, these activities can become problematic for youngsters who cannot control how much money they spend or how much time they spend. player. As with other forms of addiction, online gambling can quickly turn from a casual activity into a problem that interferes with daily life, finances and relationships.
Excessive or irresponsible gambling puts young people at risk for health problems due to low activity, anger issues, low motivation for school and activities, and strains relationships. Many games can also lead to financial problems for their families. For example, some in-game items can be exchanged for substantial real money, such as loot boxes, skins, and other gambling features, which are considered to have similarities to gambling. Loot boxes range from simple customization options for a player’s avatar or character to game-changing gear such as weapons and armor. The Frontiers in Psychiatry journal explains that loot boxes are found in games deemed suitable for young people as young as 8 years old, and among the top 100 highest-grossing video games, loot boxes were prevalent, especially on mobile platforms ( 2021). Although people don’t consider most games to involve gambling, game developers can disguise gambling as elements of the gaming experience.
Pay-to-win games and games featuring paid skins, loot boxes, or exclusives increase the risk of problem gambling. These purchases can start to add up and put people in debt. When left unattended, children have made unauthorized purchases. The financial impact of problem gambling and irresponsible gambling can take years to resolve. Knowing this, states are raising awareness and trying to regulate gambling and online gambling features such as skins, loot boxes, and pay-to-win mechanisms, especially for young people. However, the most effective method of controlling problem gambling is education and early support.
The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports has opened the confidential 24/7 Hopeline to help people connect to local services. Anyone can call 1-877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369) for free assistance and information. People with gambling problems and their loved ones living locally can also contact the Northeast Problem Gambling Resource Center at 518-801-1491 for confidential support and referral to services. People can also call the free, confidential national problem gambling hotline at 1-800-522-4700. Information about problem gambling and support services is available online at the Problem Gambling page of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports website, oasas.ny.gov/problem-gambling . Parents can learn more at Talk2Kids.org. Providers can provide links to online counseling, peer support discussions, educational materials, and virtual communities that can serve as protection against problem gambling.
For more information on this article or to discuss community awareness and prevention in more detail, contact the Prevention Department at Twin County Recovery Services, Inc. Please contact Prevention Director Tara VanRoy at tarav@ twincountyrecoveryservices.org or 518-943-2036 ext. 3311 for any questions or concerns regarding prevention.
Shannon Richardson, BS, is a prevention specialist with Twin County Recovery Services, Inc., a private, nonprofit organization incorporated in 1974 and an NYS Alcohol and Drug Services agency. Twin County Recovery Services Inc. helps alleviate the devastating effects of substance use disorders in communities across Columbia and Greene counties.