By Carl Robertson, M.R.E., M.Div, Prevention Manager, The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling. Carl Robertson is a parent, grandparent and prevention specialist who lives and works in Maryland.
How many students would it take to fill Camden Yards to capacity?
The capacity of the “Yard” is: 45,971 people.
Imagine if we could transport from across the State of Maryland just one group of adolescents 12-17 years of age to fill the “Yard” to capacity. What a site that would be! We can of course not only fill it to capacity but we would have young people standing outside as well.
National data as well as Maryland data tells us that there are at least 47,000 to 50,000 adolescents in Maryland who are problem gamblers! The National data consistently states that 4% to 6% of adolescents ages 12-17 years of age are burdened with this addiction. Gambling addiction equals and in some ways surpasses the other more widely known addictions: Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs. For those who work with adults and adolescents the term: ATOD+G describes behaviors that negatively impact their lives.
How is this possible that gambling is an addiction for adolescents 12-17 years of age? We accept the data that indicates that in every high school class of 25 students – there is 1 problem gambler. In that same classroom, there are 10-15% of other students who are At-Risk for developing a gambling addiction. It is also reported that in every high school throughout the United States there is at least one student bookie. Whenever a school plays their rival school in a sporting event a student is taking bets / wagers on the outcome of the sporting event. And of course, we have heard plenty about Fantasy Sports, Internet Sports and even video gaming as ways for students to be engaged in gambling, betting and wagering.
I have heard from Parents and Teachers alike: “Are you telling me that I need to be worried about student gambling too?” It is hard for parents and teachers alike to understand how gambling can be an issue for adolescents. For adults gambling is seen as entertainment, enjoyment, fun! And of course, for the majority of adults it is just that. However, in Maryland we have at least 150,000 adults who are problem gamblers. That is to say that in Maryland 3.4% of adults are problem gamblers – adults who gamble not for fun, entertainment or enjoyment but because they are addicted to the psychological and emotional ‘high’ they get just from thinking about gambling.
As a parent of a once high school daughter, I believed her to be mature, responsible and self-confident. However, I would often make the mistake in believing that she possessed all of the abilities to make “adult like” decisions. I even at times would say to her: “what were you thinking”. What I meant was how could you make such an “un-adult like” decision. Today, I understand that complete decision making skills and abilities are only finally developed around 22-24 years of age.
The Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling has a program developed to address adolescent gambling behaviors. It is called Maryland Smart Choices. If you are interested in learning more about the signs and resources associated with adolescent gambling go to: www.mdproblemgambling.com