Problem Gaming Conference Spotlights Youth

Providing young people with education and services regarding problem gambling was a focus of the National Council on Problem Gambling’s 36th annual conference, recently held in Washington, D.C.

Problem Gaming Conference Spotlights Youth

The National Council on Problem Gambling recently held its 36th national conference in Washington, D.C. Among the dozens of topics presented, a primary focus was on providing education and services to prevent gambling problems among young people.

Speakers noted research shows that young adults aged 18-24 are at higher risk for gambling problems because their brains are not fully developed and many have easy access to gambling platforms. They said educating minors prior to adulthood about the potential danger of gambling is critical, especially due to the widespread use of cellphones by teens.

One speaker, John Schmidt, discussed his past as a gambling addict and bank robber who spent 20 years in prison. He turned his life around and now serves as a prevention services coordinator for youth at the Delaware Council on Problem Gambling (DCPG).

His colleague, Judy McCormick, director of youth services at the DCPG, explained the organization switched its strategy from a decade ago to reach “the kids that are at highest risk of developing a problem,” according to USBets. One strategy was to have the energetic and charismatic Schmidt talk to the students, McCormick said.

Another DGCP prevention services coordinator, Anita Costales, addresses English as a Second Language classes in Delaware, speaking to students in Spanish about gambling and addiction. “One of the reasons I became an immigrant to this country was because of addictions. My husband was an alcoholic,” Costales told USBets.

Raffaello Rossi, a professor at the University of Bristol in England, spoke about his study on the impact of gambling companies’ social media advertising. He said his research indicated that gambling brands’ content marketing—used by mobile sportsbook operators on social media in the U.S.—had a significant impact on children and young adults. Content marketing, Rossi noted, does not include a call to action and therefore customers frequently don’t consider it to be advertising. He said that lack of awareness from children and young adults means they can get used to seeing gambling ads.

Rossi said it’s possible U.S. regulators could address limits on content marketing, as U.K. regulators have begun to do. Possible solutions could include requiring content to be labeled as advertising or adding protections for young people who are regularly exposed to the content.

Nani Dodson, the program coordinator for a California high school youth group, discussed the importance of getting young people involved in gambling education and prevention. She shared the group’s problem-gambling awareness campaign, which carried the theme “Betting on Our Future” and emphasized peer messaging.

In another presentation, Alison Wood-Drain, youth prevention and treatment specialist for the North Carolina Problem Gambling Program, discussed how the NCPGP worked with the state’s Department of Public Institutions to provide school social workers with information about the dangers of gambling addiction and the of exposing children and teenagers to gambling and gambling messaging.