Friday, January 14, 2005

Youths gamble with addiction

Staff Writer
A 19-year-old student in the Brainerd lakes area enjoyed playing poker with his friends in high school and thought gambling was fun.The student went off to college and his gambling got in the way of his studies. The student missed his classes for a year and the $10,000 he spent on college was wasted.Gambling turned from entertainment to a problem. This student ended up getting help for his gambling addiction.
Facts about youths and gamblingPrevalence rates of youths who are pathological gamblers are two to four times that of adults.Between 76 to 91 percent of all teens will have gambled by the time they are a senior in high school.Youths with gambling problems are at a heightened risk for suicide thoughts and attempts.Few youths are informed today about addictive risks of gambling.Children can start gambling as early as grade school and usually sustain their level of gambling for several years.Youths who have an addiction to gambling are more likely to have parents with gambling problems, engage in illegal activities and have suicidal thoughts.Source: North American Training Institute.Marcie Carper, a certified compulsive gambling counselor for Northern Pines in the Little Falls office, counseled this individual, as well as other youths who are compulsive gamblers.Carper said youths who become addicted to gambling could be a problem in the Brainerd lakes area, as well as everywhere in the nation. However, the number of youths Carper has seen in the past few years is low.Many youth think they can handle it and won't admit they have a problem, said Carper. "They don't think it will happen to them."Carper said the fear of youths getting hooked on gambling now is even greater because of the rise in the popularity of the poker game, Texas Hold 'em."This game is all over the place," Carper said. "It's on TV and everyone is doing it. I see kids carry around the game in a case."Youths are playing the poker game at home. A student group at Brainerd High School had planned a Texas Hold 'em poker tournament earlier this week for students and staff for a fund-raiser. The tournament was canceled after questions were raised about the legality of the event.Frank Ball, the director of alcohol and gambling enforcement for the state Department of Public Safety, advised people or groups interested in hosting poker tournaments to contact local law enforcement or the state office to determine whether such a game is lawful or unlawful.Carper said kids get into gambling first by playing poker, and 3-4 percent of them will get hooked and have a problem. She said youths not only play poker, they also get hooked on illegal sports betting. Then once they are old enough they begin buying pull-tabs and go to the casinos.Once a younger person is hooked on gambling, several dangers can arise, said Carper. She said they may lose their family contacts and have legal problems, such as stealing their parents' credit cards for gambling."It's a hidden disease," said Carper. "It is just like being addicted to drugs or alcohol."Carper said compulsive gamblers often get depressed, have mood swings and are anxious. Youths also will usually drop out of sports and other activities, miss classes and their grades will suffer.A recent study showed that more compulsive gamblers commit suicide than alcoholics, said Carper.Carper spoke at a recent Bridges of Hope meeting in Brainerd about compulsive gamblers and said parents were concerned about their children. Carper said what is more dangerous about the kids than the adults with gambling problems was the youths are more likely to resort to illegal ways to support their habit. Adults will use credit cards or the mortgage on their house to gamble.Carper said not everyone who gambles will become addicted, but if they do there is help. The state Human Services Department has a treatment program for gambling addicts. She said if the person does not have insurance the state will pay for the treatment.

If you think you know someone with a gambling problem call the Minnesota Problem Gambling helpline at 1-800-437-3641. Or call Northern Pines at 1-800-951-6648 or (320) 632-5255.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at or 855-5851.
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