Youth Gambling

44% of Maine high school students report that they have gambled with money or something else of value at least one time in their life.   (Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 2011)

Motives for adolescent gambling:

Relaxation - Enjoyment - Excitement - Entertainment Adventure – Attention – Opportunity - Escape Negative feelings

Teens commonly:

  • Live in the moment and enjoy games that keep them attentive and engaged. The teen lives in the moment with cell phone/ internet/ blackberry immediacy. Remote gambling is especially unique in this manner.
  • Are technologically literate and can navigate the internet at the speed of light compared to older generations
  • Are high risk takers developmentally. This is a normal part of the teenage experience to challenge the norm and take risks, both physically and emotionally
  • Have poor control over impulsive behaviors
  • Are able to dominate web sites without physical presence, beauty, strength, or acceptance. Skill is all important.

Major modes of teen betting

  • Internet
  • Online poker
  • Peer – to – peer (online bet exchanges)
  • Sports betting
  • Other types such as: poker, tossing coins, dice, etc

Signs of problem gambling in teens:

  • Unexplained absences from school
  • Dropping grades
  • Increased family conflict
  • The family suspects alcohol or other drug abuse
  • Asking/taking/stealing money from family friends and strangers
  • Large amounts of money in teen’s possession
  • Gambling language and gambling an important conversational topic
  • Showing off money, clothing, and other possessions
  • Spending an unusual amount of time on the computer (out of parents sight), closing down programs when adults walk into the room, reading newspapers (sports page and stats), magazines, an/or periodicals having to do with sports or online poker sites.
  • Selling personal belongings (theirs and families)
  • Bragging about winnings
  • Lying, cheating, or stealing in school
  • Exhaustion from lack of sleep
  • Digititis (fingers look like they are typing on a key board all the time)
  • Playing on a team but not performing to normal abilities (shaving points)
  • Overtly interested in how other teams at school are performing
  • Overly invested in performance of certain athletes (fantasy football/basketball/etc)

Teen rates for problem gambling are at a rate higher than for adults and vary. 4%–8% of adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age gamble at a pathological level, and another 10%–15% are at risk of developing a serious problems. (1)

Find help:

If you suspect a teen has a gambling problem, contact the confidential helpline: 2-1-1 (Maine only) for more information and resources.

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


(1) Derevensky & Gupta, 2004; Derevensky et al., 2003; Hardoon & Derevensky, 2002; Jacobs, 2000; National Research Council, 1999

Content from the National Problem Gambling Awareness week.org