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DHS news release

Nov. 20, 2006


Poker sets for kids? Think twice before anteing up


This guest opinion is by Jeff Marotta (503-945-9709), problem gambling services manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services.


Length: 626 words (including writer ident.)

 


By Jeff Marotta


Has Santa's workshop moved to Las Vegas?


Get ready for what has become an annual marketing onslaught of gambling-related toys, books and paraphernalia as we approach the holiday shopping season. My current favorite example is the Pink Poker Night "It's A Chick Thing" Kit, where for $29.95 you can have "everything a chick needs to host a fabulous girls' night in."


So what's the fuss? I received this e-mail from a concerned mother of two:


"I want to know how much I should be worrying about gambling and the health of my kids. They watch poker tournaments on TV, their friends wear clothing with references to poker, and I heard my son talk about playing poker with friends.... What is a mother to do?"


She is not alone in wondering about the effects of ongoing exposure to gambling. Today's is the first generation to grow up in a society where gambling is widely accepted, advertising is ubiquitous and gambling activities are commonplace.


Research indicates that 60-90 percent of youth engage in gambling, and that youth problem gambling rates are 2-4 times higher than those of adults. Surveys of Oregon teens tell us drugs, alcohol and gambling often travel together, yet many parents see gambling as a relatively safe pastime and encourage it as an alternative activity.


I told the concerned mom that, although we don't know the ultimate effects of today's gambling popularity, we do know both children and adults can and do get caught up in gambling in a way that is harmful to themselves and others around them.


This is not to say that if your child is gambling you need to panic -- most kids engage in some form of gambling and most don't develop gambling problems. But you do need to recognize that gambling carries risk and approach it accordingly, as you would tobacco use, drug use or fastening your car's seatbelt.


What do you look for if you're concerned your child might have a problem? Watch for signs such as lying about gambling, gambling superseding other activities, using money to gamble that's supposed to be used for other things, borrowing money to gamble, or stealing and letting schoolwork suffer.


Another suggestion I gave the concerned mom was to talk to her kids about gambling using these simple guidelines:

  • Notice opportunities to discuss gambling. Help children make sense out of what they see on television, in the news and in the community.
  • Discuss rules and expectations for behavior, and follow through with consequences.
  • Be specific. When you talk about gambling, mention examples such as buying a lottery ticket, betting on a sports event, playing bingo.
  • Be clear about your own values but avoid sweeping statements (all gambling is bad) or threats ("if I ever catch you betting money..."). Kids feel immortal, so scaring them doesn't work; threats invite rebellion.
  • Emphasize balance and choice. Facing choices about gambling and other risky behaviors can be a good way to practice making good decisions about many life issues.

As a parent, you play the most important role in preventing problem gambling behaviors in your children. You may want to think twice before buying your daughter a "Pink Poker Night" set or, for that matter, any one of the hundreds of gambling products that will adorn your newspaper's ad inserts.


A better gift is talking to your kids about the risks of gambling and helping them understand the best bets made in life aren't made in card games.