The Casino Generation
By maddy
Naples Daily News had a disturbing headline 'Children are following adults into a gambling abyss.'

According to the news report, the number of U.S. and Canadian teenagers aged 12 to 17 with a gambling dependency has shot up 50 percent in a decade based in information sourced from the National Council on Problem Gambling. The majority of American 12-year olds seem to draw inspiration from Grandma and Grandpa, who hop on the bus with their friends to a casino resort to play the slot machines or blackjack table. These teenagers are only emulating their role models who are the adults, they are growing up with. Sometimes, a parent's passion for gambling is passed on to an adolescent. That happened in the case of Sarah, now a 31-year-old executive in New York City who accompanied her parents to Atlantic City casinos as a teenager, became hooked, and now attends regular sessions of Gamblers Anonymous to shake an addiction that plunged her into a six-figure debt.

Experts believe children are at greater risk than adults of developing a lifelong gambling problem. The rise in teen-age gambling is one of the more damaging social costs of this seemingly innocuous American pastime. Millions of American teens are illegally buying lottery tickets, playing cards for cash or betting online.

What starts small can snowballs into a self-destructive addiction. This leads to fundamental questions like 'Does gambling really reap the financial rewards it's proponents promise? Sure, there's the initial boost it gives to the local economy, real estate prices rise, hundreds of new jobs are created; but it's only a matter of time that local crime rates rise, and nearby property values plummet. Disturbingly, regional economies spend more than a dollar for every dollar they take in, according to research referenced in the Boston Business Journal. Budget deficits in Connecticut and New Jersey, which both have casinos, forced the states to lay off thousands of employees. Louisiana had to cut gambling taxes in half after casinos threatened to leave because profits were too low. Adding to it, are gambling associated problems like smoking, petty crimes, relationship problems, alcohol and more debts to play more hoping to win that jackpot to clear the existing debts and drugs to shrug off the worries. It's a spiralling chain reaction.

Things might seem innocuous initially, but it all starts small and mushrooms. Experts say the long-term stakes are high because gamblers who start young are the most likely to develop addiction problems. 'This is the first generation of kids growing up when gambling is legal and available virtually nationwide,' said George Meldrum of the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems. 'Casinos, racetracks -- they take it for granted.'

Betting on sports is epidemic at colleges, and he estimated that 40 percent of New Jersey adolescents play the lottery, which is meant to be off-limits to anyone under 18. The Internet provides the holy trinity of risk factors -- immediate access, anonymity and, with use of a credit card, the ability to gamble with money you don't really have,' Whyte said.

Nationwide statistics on youth gambling are scarce, but regional surveys suggest more than 30 percent of all high school students gamble periodically. Middle-schoolers are following suit, as evidenced by the uncovering of a sports-betting ring at a Glenview, Ill., middle school last year. In Delaware, Meldrum's agency recently conducted one of the largest-ever surveys of student gambling; nearly one-third of 6,753 participating eighth-graders said they had gambled in 2002.

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