LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)—The month of March is recognized across the country as gambling awareness month. Here in Michigan, with online betting now legal, experts are worried about one particular group, our youth.
“I can sit at home on my phone, on my computer and I can gamble and that’s a concern,” says Gambling Disorder Program Manager for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Alia Lucas.
She says despite the legal age to place a bet being 18, addiction can start much earlier than that.
“When our clinicians talk to them and they start the assessment and they’re starting to get into the history of the gambling activity what they learn is that these individuals start gambling at the ages of nine to eleven years old,” said Lucas.
Mae Lambert is a licensed clinician and an expert in youth gambling. She says gambling activates a reward system in the frontal part of the brain that is not fully developed until the age of 25, priming the brain for future addictions.
“The frontal lobe is where we create all of our rationalizations and where we understand consequences,” said Youth Gambling Community Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Mae Lambert.
Lambert says online betting age restrictions are easy to get past.
“They can say yes I’m 18 and over. There’s no way for the vendor to know that this is someone who is under 18.”
Lambert and Lucas say 80% of teenagers have gambled within the past year. It’s a number they expect to increase this year due to more time spent at home. Experts also worry even pay to play video games could become a problem.
“While it might not seem harmful for a lot of the youth to play these online games and pay for the things necessary to progress, it is something to pay attention to,” said Lucas.
Lucas says the best thing you can do to help your kids prevent a gambling addiction is to have an open conversation with them about it.
“Ask them if they are gambling, you know what kind of gambling, what kind of gaming are you doing and have an upfront conversation about the potential dangers of gambling.”
Below is a list of resources, and ways to get help.