|In America, a survey by the Oregon Department of Human Services has found that 33 percent of teenagers have gambled online for free.|
According to the Statesman Journal newspaper, there are around 1,700 gambling sites offering everything from casino games and poker to bingo with the state’s study showing 94,659 twelve to 17-year-olds had taken part over the last year for free.
Officials stated that they were worried by the results of the survey because the free sites introduce teenagers to gambling and may groom them for real-money games.
'You're learning that gambling is fun, it's stimulating and it's risk-free,' said Wendy Hausotter, Problem Gambling Prevention Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Human Services.
'That's not true at all.'
Hausotter stated that she is worried because online gambling is convenient, easily accessible and can be done at home with no adult supervision. She said that the novelty, high level of stimulation and low level of physical exertion involved with virtual gambling also appeals to youths.
'It's the game of choice among youth, which is surprising for us,' said Hausotter.
'It wasn't on the radar screen.'
Officials stated that the previous survey on youth gambling in Oregon was conducted in 1998 but that it didn't ask teens or parents about free online wagers. At the time, the study found that betting on card games such as poker was the most common type of gambling among Oregon youths but that this has since dropped to second.
'We're not saying don't gamble,' said Yvonne Kays, Prevention Health Educator for Marion County Health Department.
'Our message is, you need to recognise the risk factors and when it becomes a problem. It's a problem when you're spending too much time or money doing it.'