Los Fresnos News

An Addiction Begins: Lottery Tickets as Gifts for Kids

by John Michaelson/TNS

AUSTIN, Texas – As the available shopping time left before Christmas quickly slips away, the National Council on Problem Gambling is reminding Texas parents lottery tickets should not end up as stocking stuffers in the last-minute rush for gifts.

Psychologist and family therapist Sharon Davern says it may seem like harmless fun, but such gambling is illegal for teenagers, and even lottery tickets have the potential to open the door to a gambling addiction.

“Pretty much every addict of any kind that I have worked with has started as a child or as a teen,” says Davern. “I like to avoid anything that gives that short-term adrenaline burst and glorifies that. To me, that’s not an appropriate gift.”

They're the perfect size and don't require a lot of shopping around, but experts say giving lottery tickets to teens as holiday gifts is a bad bet. Photo credit: Mark Turnauckas/Flickr.

They’re the perfect size and don’t require a lot of shopping around, but experts say giving lottery tickets to teens as holiday gifts is a bad bet. Photo credit: Mark Turnauckas/Flickr.

Whether lottery tickets, online casino games or poker with friends, about three-fourths of youth gamble for money over the course of a year, and about one in 20 teens meet one or more criteria of having a gambling problem.

Davern notes that what starts with small bets often grows into huge debts, as those who struggle with a gambling addiction often become very good at hiding the problem until they’re in financial ruin.

“Very few people actually spontaneously say ‘Gee, I need help,'” he says. “It’s usually because they’re looking down the barrel of some kind of gun, as far as ‘This is going to go bad. I’m going to lose my family. I’m going to lose my job.'”

It’s estimated that the negative impact on family, finances and work due to gambling is a problem for up to eight million Americans.

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