The Hidden Epidemic

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc.
Prepared by Ed Looney, Executive Director
Kevin O'Neill, Deputy Director

A survey from the University of Minnesota, by Dr. Ken Winters, indicates that youth are four (4) times the risk of adults for developing pathological (compulsive) gambling.

In 1991, Atlantic City casinos refused entry to approximately 194,000 underage gamblers. However, over 21,000 had to be removed from the casino floor. According to Dr. Durand Jacobs, a psychologist and Vice President of the National Council on Problem Gambling, "little will change until society begins to view teenage gambling with the same alarm directed at drugs and alcohol. Gambling is the addiction of the 90s."

Tim, 17, was caught at an Atlantic City blackjack table. At 18, he owed a loan shark $6,000. "You don't do it for the money," he says, "you do it for the action. You sometimes lose to punish yourself."
Mary, 16, gambles everyday. "I'm worried about my friend, I think she has a problem and I don't know where she gets the money," says her friend, age 16.
Dave, 17, made book at his North Jersey high school. He was caught when another boy tried to sell his mother's ring to pay a debt to Dave while on school property. According to both police and school officials, "Both youths face serious charges."

As losses increase and self-esteem is jeopardized, the young gambler will borrow money to get even and continue to bet. Lies to family, girl and boyfriends and family disputes escalate. Selling of prized possessions such as stereos, CD collection, sporting equipment, or musical instruments occurs to cover increasing bets. Other common danger signals include missing school, work or other important events due to gambling activities.

Desperation occurs as the teen gambler becomes obsessed with getting even to cover money lost through gambling. The young gambler can experience severe mood swings, fail in school, and commit crimes such as selling drugs, shoplifting, stealing from parents or embezzling from their employer to get money to gamble. Panic sets in at the thought that the gambling action will cease and at this point, nothing or no one comes before a bet. Suicidal thoughts may be considered as a way out.