Youth problem gambling is a growing public health concern. More and more youth are exposed to the availability and accessibility of many forms of gambling, and are tempted by the pressures to participate. Gambling problems have long-term severe consequences on a teenager's life and on the life of those close to him or her. Some of the adverse effects of a gambling problem can be seen on various levels of individual functioning (affective, cognitive, social, academic) and on both mental and physical health. In general, between 60-80% of high school students report having gambled for money during the past year; 4-6% of these students are considered pathological gamblers (addicted to gambling) while another 6-8% are at risk of developing a serious gambling problem, or show signs of loss of control. Boys are more likely than girls to gamble and experience gambling problems. Yet for most parents and teens, gambling is seen as an innocuous behavior with few negative consequences.
Three percent (3%) of the Adult Population of the U.S has a gambling problem. Within Pennsylvania it is estimated that over 300,000 people are addicted to gambling. Surveys show that about 10% – 15% of American youth have experienced gambling-related problems. 1% to 6% of youth may satisfy diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. The addiction impacts the daily lives of the individual, their loved ones and the community at large: 60% of those addicted to gambling will commit crimes; 20% (1 in 5) of gambling addicts attempt or complete suicide; 63% of gambling addicts have substance related disorders. In adolescents, manifestation of gambling problems is not always as clear as those commonly observed in adult problem gamblers. However, the following signs can indicate the development of a growing problem:
a consuming interest in gambling and gambling-related activities
problems in school, such as a loss of interest or unexplained absences
changes in personality or demeanor; signs of anxiety and stress
changes in relationships, changes in mood ; explosive expression of anger