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Pathological gambling (PG) is commonly referred to as a "hidden" addiction. While in recent years, PG in adults has been recognized as an addiction that can be diagnosed and treated, PG among youth remains relatively unrecognized. Yet, a national survey indicates that the rate of pathological gambling in youth is higher than that in adults (Welte, 2002), possibly as distinct as 5% versus 1%, respectively (NCPG). And as in adults, gambling in children and adolescents has been linked to higher rates of problem behaviors, including substance abuse, violence, stealing and risky sexual behaviors (NCPG).
"Gambling in kids could very well be the gateway behavior that we used to believe marijuana was," Keith Whyte recently told CABL. "Scattered studies and emerging evidence suggest that early onset of gambling should be a big indicator for people to look for additional problems."
Keith Whyte is the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), the national advocate for programs and services to assist problem gamblers and their families. He emphasized that NCPG is not against gambling. Rather, they are concerned about gambling as a disease. Regarding gambling problems in youth, he said, "Nobody is paying attention, really looking at some of the societal indications. It hasn't received the attention it deserves."
"It's always been easy to gamble," Whyte admitted, "just find a deck of cards." So, what's changed? Is gambling on the rise among youth? And if so, why?
Surveys show that an increasing majority of youth gamble; while in the year 2000 roughly 80% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 reported gambling in the past year, an …