Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction

Children and Gambling: The Irresistible Internet

By Annie Mueller
For Casino Watch Foundation

In the world of gambling opportunities, few are as accessible and as appealing as internet gambling. If you don't get many advertisements each day for online poker and sports betting, it is only because your spam filter is actually doing its job. My generation (the current twenty-somethings) was introduced to the internet sometime in our teen years. I remember our first computer at home, how you had to boot it up, load your floppy disk, and type in a command at the DOS prompt to get your game to start. The internet was several years later.

The current generation of middle- and high-school-aged children were weaned on instant messaging, email, and online information sources. When I tutor kids now and require a research project, I have to specify that all the sources cannot be internet-based. Otherwise, they all are. This generation carries the internet around with them on their cell phones. So too do many of us, from twenty-something to sixty-something. But there's a difference: the voice of experience, of maturity, of life experience versus the ease of familiarity and naivete.

Internet gambling is widely available and completely unregulated. Any kid who wants to figures out quickly enough that it's easy to lie on the online gambling "membership applications" about your age. It's also easy to grab a credit card number from Mom or Dad's wallet, or use one of their online banking accounts to get the information. Most parents trust their kids and don't take many, if any, measures to hide passwords and financial information. Many children already have their own credit or debit cards, as well, for emergencies and to make life simpler for Mom and Dad. For someone who has grown up using computers and the internet, there is nothing difficult or complicated about filling out a form, downloading some software, and paying for it all online.

For these kids, the virtual world is a real enough place when it comes to social networking and having conversations with friends; when it comes to financial obligations and legal consequences, it all seems very shadowy and far removed. They've been warned about internet predators in the form of pedophiles in chat rooms, but have they been warned about quick, easy, and seemingly painless way to ruin your future, your financial credibility, and your family's trust by "sneaking" into an online poker tournament?

A 2003 CBS News Report by David Crary states that a "recent survey in Delaware found that 9 percent of eighth-graders had gambled on Internet sites offering electronic forms of slot machines and card games. Many experts believe this type of gambling will become increasingly tempting to young people" (1). A Federal Trade Commission news release reports that "[t]he FTC visited over 100 popular gambling websites - and found that minors can, indeed, access these sites easily, and that minors are often exposed to ads for online gambling on non-gambling websites. ...the gambling sites had inadequate or hard-to-find warnings about underage gambling prohibitions, and that some 20 percent had no warning at all. ...these gambling sites had no effective mechanism to block minors from entering" (2).

It's easy, exciting, appealing, and seems harmless to the kids whose virtual lives have never before posed any danger or obligation. Not only do parents need to do all they can to keep their kids from accessing these sites, but the sites themselves need to be, at the very least, held accountable for the lack of any precautions against minors entering and playing at these gambling sites.

Works Cited
1. Crary, David. "Kids Gambling - And Losing: Millions of American Children Said To Be Involved In Risky Pastime." CBS News. New York. 14 July 2003. Accessed 29 October 2007. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/14/health/main563015.shtml
2. "FTC Warns Consumers About Online Gambling and Children." Federal Trade Commission. 26 June 2002. Accessed 29 October 2007. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/06/onlinegambling.shtm