WSJ: Gambling culture grows among US youth

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WSJ: Gambling culture grows among US youth
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A report highlighted the link between increased gaming time, developments in gambling laws, and the relation to increased gambling culture among the male youth.

A report by The Wall Street Journal adressed the fact that gaming and gambling issues emerged among youths, especially among teen boys, according to counselors, therapists, and addiction specialists, especially amid an increase in the time spent online, the legalization of sports betting in an increasing number of states, and the availability of a  gambling-like culture in videogames.

"There's been a big surge of younger and younger people" in gambling support and recovery programs, says Marc Lefkowitz, who chaired the recovery committee for the National Council on Problem Gambling. 

Teens are impacted too. the report noted, based on one poll that involved 7,500 Wood Country, Ohio, 7th through 12th graders. The poll revealed that a number of 11th and 12th grade boys suffered from gambling problems, such as lying about how much they lost or being unable to manage excessive gaming periods, and that the number increased to 8.3% in 2022 from 4.2% in 2018.

According to those who research and treat compulsive gambling, the border between gambling and video gaming is becoming increasingly blurred. Videogames, which are often played on smartphones, computers, and game consoles, incorporate elements that simulate gambling activities such as roulette and slot machines.

William Ivoska, an addiction expert who has been conducting the biennial poll on juvenile gambling in Ohio since 2014, explained that video games can begin as free but then require purchases to improve one's odds of winning. He mentioned a loot box, which can be purchased with an adult's credit or debit card and can contain virtual things like swords or uniforms that boost players' skills.

“Problematic gaming among adolescents can lead to problematic gambling as an adolescent and as an adult,” Dr. Ivoska said.   

For individuals above the age of 21, the authorization of mobile sports betting in 26 US states has made gambling accessible through smartphone apps.

Young males who are impetuous and overconfident are especially vulnerable to sports betting, according to Jeff Derevensky, head of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors. Players might wager on numerous outcomes, such as the number of passes completed by a quarterback, rather than just the ultimate score, he argues, compounding losses.

Jesse Suh, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia, said more male college students are coming in for treatment, sometimes at the request of parents who discover tuition money and other college expenditures had been put towards sports betting and other gambling. 

These young men “have distorted thinking that they are in control and can predict the outcome,” he argued, adding that they had easy access to money but didn't really understand the degree of their spending.

“It’s hard to recognize the value of money with online transactions,” he explained to The Wall Street Journal.

According to Hilarie Cash, founding member and chief clinical officer of reSTART, which provides inpatient and outpatient gaming addiction therapy, argued, in The Wall Street Journal report, that young people with gambling addictions frequently begin with obsessive videogame play as a means to cope with despair and anxiety.

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