Gambling’s New Recruits—Youths!
DO YOU shake your head in disbelief at the depth to which the adult population, both men and women, are mired in gambling addiction? Does it boggle your mind to read of adult gamblers giving up their life’s work and accomplishments—jobs, businesses, family, and, for some, their life—for the sake of gambling? Can you comprehend the rationale of a mature, educated adult, who, after winning $1.5 million gambling, continued playing until he lost $7 million the same night? In many cases it is greed, a chasing after the elusive dollar. All too often, however, it is the thrill of the gambling itself.
If you are parents with young children, do you take comfort in the thought that gambling is a mature adult’s game? Then think again. Consider the new young recruits waiting in the wings—or already on the playing field. The facts may astound you.
The following caption texts of articles appeared in recent newspapers and magazines: “Odds Are Good Gambling May Be Teen Vice of ’90s.” “More Youth Hooked by Gambling.” “‘Crack of the ’90s’: Gambling Hooks Kids.” “My Son Couldn’t Stop Gambling.”
Now, read below the headlines. “Authorities blame the crisis largely on the proliferation of state- and church-sponsored gambling,” wrote one newspaper. “Today, betting is more accessible than ever to vulnerable young people. And specialists warn that more than 90 percent of compulsive adult gamblers take up the habit before they are 14,” the paper said. “It used to be most compulsives started gambling around age 14. Now we are seeing it drop to age 9 or 10,” said another researcher. “Why? Because the opportunity is there,” she added. “Kids . . . are bombarded with gambling advertising everywhere. It’s socially acceptable excitement.” “It’s getting worse fast,” said a spokesman for a group called Gamblers Anonymous. “The kids are starting at younger and younger ages, and more of them are getting caught up in it than ever before.”
According to a study of teenage gamblers in one American state, about 3.5 percent were potentially compulsive gamblers; another 9 percent were likely to become “high-risk” gamblers. “Typically, the numbers have shown that there are higher rates of gambling among youth than there are in the general adult population,” said William C. Phillips, coordinator of counseling services at one American college. “We will face in the next decade or so more problems with youth gambling than we’ll face with drug use—particularly illicit drug use,” said another addiction counselor. Professor Henry Lesieur conducted a study of junior and senior high school students. The Los Angeles Times reported that “his findings are strikingly similar to the study of college students: The percentages of teen-agers ranking as ‘pathological’ or ‘compulsive’ gamblers—people who have lost control of their gambling activity—average about 5% of the teen-age population nationwide.”
Gambling therapists agree that it is not the numbers of youthful gamblers that concern them but rather the “attitude of kids, parents and even educators about teen gambling. . . . Many kids and their parents consider gambling a ‘harmless diversion,’ with consequences much less serious than those from involvement with drugs and alcohol or violence or promiscuity.” But behaviorist counselor Durand Jacobs warned that gambling can expose youngsters to crime, truancy, and a desire for easy money.
Consider, for example, one high school student who began gambling at an early age. While in school he spent many of his class hours gambling with other students. When he lost and his allowance was gone, he stole money from funds that students had contributed for food baskets for needy families. By gambling the stolen money, he hoped to buy back his own family’s television set and an onyx ring that he had pawned to pay off earlier gambling debts. By the time he was in the ninth grade, he had already spent 20 days in a juvenile home for stealing $1,500 and was heavily into dollar-ante poker and $5-a-rack pool. “As I got older, the amounts got higher,” he said. Soon he was stealing from his neighbors to pay his gambling debts. His mother was in despair. By age 18 he had become a compulsive gambler.
In England, sociologists say, soft gambling laws allow children to play slot machines. In airports and arcades, large numbers of children support their addiction by stealing from their parents and by shoplifting.
“Among youth, the most popular and fastest-growing form of gambling on junior high, high school and college campuses is sports betting among [the students] themselves, sometimes backed by local bookies,” said Jacobs. “I would predict that there are very few high school and college campuses that don’t have well-organized and high-stakes sports pools.” Added to this are the card games, lotteries, and casinos that many teens are allowed into because of looking older than their years.
“One of the points that has to be made,” said Jacobs, “is that most of the people went on to be compulsive gamblers because when they started as teen-agers, they were winners.” “The ‘overwhelming majority’ of young people, he said, were introduced to gambling by their parents or relatives who condoned it as fun and games,” continued The Los Angeles Times. Another substance-abuse counselor added his voice: “Parents have got to look at the same old issue they’ve had to deal with in alcohol and drugs. I just think the more you expand gambling, the more new recruits to the compulsive gambling club occur.” Specialists who treat compulsive gamblers say that just as with drugs and alcohol, when hooked on gambling more and more juveniles are supporting their addiction by stealing, peddling drugs, and prostituting themselves. Parents may consider gambling “fun and games,” but police officials do not.
“Kids who became hooked on slot machines . . . displayed all the destructive traits of adult compulsive gamblers. Youngsters who got addicted to these slot machines might have started at the age of 9 or 10. They ran through their pocket money, school dinner money, and loose change around the house. A year or two on and boys began stealing things. Everything would be sold from the child’s own room, bats, books, even treasures like record players: other children would find their own toys gone too. Nothing in the house was safe. Moody heard of desperate mothers piling up their possessions in one room so as to sit guard over them, or having to hide their handbags under the bedclothes when they went to sleep. Frantic, such mothers could no more comprehend what was happening to their offspring than nesting birds robbed by a cuckoo. The kids still managed to steal from somewhere. By the age of 16, the police would be knocking on the door.”—Easy Money: Inside the Gambler’s Mind, by David Spanier.
As it has been pointed out in these articles, many adults and young people have been introduced to gambling through their churches—bingo, lotteries, and so forth. Should religious institutions and their leaders who claim to be followers of Christ encourage, promote, and abet gambling in any form? Hardly! Gambling in all its aspects appeals to one of the worst qualities in humans, the desire to get something for nothing, or, more bluntly put, greed. Those who promote it encourage people to believe it is right to profit from the losses of others. Would Jesus promote such activity when it brings family breakup, shame, ill health, and the destruction of one’s life? Never! Rather, God’s inspired Word makes clear that greedy persons will not inherit God’s Kingdom.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Parents must teach their children at an early age that gambling in any form is wrong. Do not view it as fun and games but rather as the beginning of laziness, lying, cheating, and dishonesty. In many cities assistance programs, such as Gamblers Anonymous, have been set up. More important, if you have a problem, seek out the inspired counsel contained in God’s Word, the Bible. Some who have contemplated suicide say they owe their lives to heeding such inspired advice.
Interestingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have helped many who were caught in the snare of compulsive gambling to break free. One such former compulsive gambler wrote that after many years of involvement in vices, including heavy gambling, “immediate and dramatic changes of conduct began to occur as my girlfriend and I studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Gambling was an addictive force, and it proved to be most difficult to manage. With Jehovah’s help and the support of my girlfriend—along with study, prayer, and meditation, especially on God’s view of greed—this gambling addiction came under control, and my girlfriend, who has now been my wife for 38 years, and I both dedicated our lives to Jehovah. Though we have served where the need is greater and in full-time service for years and I have served as a traveling representative of the Watchtower Society, my addiction is still present and is controlled only with Jehovah’s help and guidance.”
If gambling is a problem for you, can you be set free of the addiction? Yes, if you continue to avail yourself of God’s help and offer it to others who may be in need of it.
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Soon there will be more problems with youths gambling than with drugs
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Greedy persons will not inherit God’s Kingdom
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Gambling Chips Welcome at Las Vegas Catholic Shrine
Visitors to the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer often ask the priest: “Father, will you pray for me to win?”
Millions of people visit Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A., every year from all parts of the world to test the whims of Lady Luck. In the warmly lit sanctuary of this Roman Catholic Church, where statues of the Nativity, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion appear along the walls, gambling proceeds are put to use in the pews: Worshipers put casino chips into the collection plate.
“Now and then we’ll find a $500 chip in one of the plates,” Father Leary of the shrine said in a soft Irish brogue.
A Roman Catholic church farther up the Las Vegas Strip served the worshipers for decades, but when four of the world’s largest hotel-casinos—the MGM Grand, the Luxor, the Excalibur, and the Tropicana—were built at the south end of the Strip, the new Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer was built just one block away.
When the priest was asked why this was done, he said: “Why not? That’s where the people are.”
It’s also where the money is. So why not?
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Gambling leads to bad associations