Advancing Responsible Gaming - Underage Gambling & Management of the Problem

3 December 2001

For those of you who are not quite convinced that underage gambling warrants action steps to keep kids away from gambling activity. . . If you are still holding firmly to the concept that underage gambling is in the same danger zone as jaywalking, please read on.

History Lessons

Lets look back at some historical, commonly-accepted statements from world-class experts that seemed correct at the time, but…. proved to be false:

" We finally found something for kids to do that is exciting with no harm to them: gambling."
-Average parent of an average 14-year old.

Other Historically Bad Predictions

"Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
-British scientist Dionysius Lardner, 1823

"Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure."
Thomas Edison's first demonstration of the electric light
Henry Morton, President, Stevens Institute of Technology, 1879

"Heavier than air flying machines are impossible."
Physicist William Thompson, Lord Kelvin, 1895

"We don't like their sound. . . and guitar music is on the way out."
Decca Records rejecting the Beatles, 1962

Parents, Kids and Gambling

Most land-based gaming establishments that have been in existence for more than a week have experienced the following scenario: Three people enter the gaming establishment--two adults and one obviously youthful person. The gaming security staff greets the people, welcomes them to the gaming establishment and politely asks for identification from the young person. The two adults tell the security staff that the young person is their 14 year-old son and they are "all really looking forward to playing slots as long as our son can play slots too." The patient and seasoned security staff explains to the parents that it is just not possible for their son to be in certain parts of the casino and it is clearly against the law and against gaming regulations for an underage person to gamble.

"That's outrageous!" say the parents. "He is our son and we know what is best for him. It's only gambling, and it is not like he will be drinking or smoking."

"Sorry, folks. We could be fined or lose our license," says security.

Sometimes the story ends there, but occasionally it does not. Sometimes the parents sneak their underage youngsters back into the casino or give their children false IDs or falsify their children's ages in other ways. Sometimes the kids who are brought into a gambling establishment by parents are caught gambling by the gaming control commission and the casino is fined a huge sum of money. In these situations, it sure doesn't seem fair.

A Match Made in Heaven - Parents & the Interactive Gaming Industry Combat Underage Gambling

Throughout the world and in all cultures, it is parents who have the most influence over their children. While a parent may not be concerned about an online gaming site or a land based casino getting fined for underage gambling, it is very likely that they would like to keep their own kids out of the reach of activities that are addictive for youngsters.

In most parts of the world, policy makers craft laws to keep kids off bar stools until they are 18 or 21; they alert parents and the community about the addictive nature of tobacco and dangers of kids smoking. For a couple of generations, parents have been targeted with public awareness messages to engage them in teaching their children to stay away from liquor, cigarettes, drugs, and other bad stuff. Why not underage gambling?

Why Aren't Parents Concerned About the Addictive Nature of Gambling for Kids?

It's simple: They don't know! Research from Harvard University Medical School Division on Addiction, the American Academy of Pediatrics and a host of other scientific and peer reviewed research from throughout the world is saying the same thing: Kids are at a higher risk than adults for developing an addiction to gambling. In a Minnesota survey of parents who knew their children (ages 15 or younger) were gambling, only 9 percent were very concerned. Underage gambling is not yet on parents' radar screen.

Let's Tell Them!

The interactive gaming community has an awesome opportunity to draw a large circle to include parents, grandparents, educators and an array of other youth role models to help prevent kids from gambling.

Parents need to be educated about the downside of underage gambling. Interactive gambling companies have a host of opportunities including:

  • Web site banners about the addictive nature of gambling for youth;
  • Web site to direct parents to information about the legal age to gamble;
  • providing low-cost or free educational materials on underage gambling prevention to youth service organizations;
  • conducting a poster or art contest for youth/parents about underage gambling problems; and
  • collaborating with an array of youth-serving organizations and parent/teacher organizations and provide alternative-to-gambling funding for things such as sporting equipment, art classes or computer equipment.

Take a moment and talk to your own children's teachers, mentors, and role models. Ask them what they think you should do to keep kids from gambling. Please let me know what you hear and I will print it in my next article.

Elizabeth George is the chief executive officer of the North American Training Institute ( For more than a decade, NATI has provided responsible gaming programs for the gaming and wagering industries throughout the world. Its programs include a 24-hour compulsive gambling Helpline service with language translations, conceptualizing of company responsible gaming mission statements, policy statements, employee assistance programs, program collaborations and customized responsible gaming multimedia programs. For further information, contact: North American Training Institute, 314 West Superior Street, Suite 702, Duluth, MN 55802, USA or (218) 722-1503.