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Is Sports Betting a Gateway to Problem Gambling for Teens?

Published: May 15, 2023

For many children in Ohio, sports betting is now the first form of gambling they will ever be exposed to. Whether they are seeing advertisements for it on TV that feature sports celebrities, encountering media or influencers who talk about it on the internet, or seeing a family member place bets, sports betting has made gambling a bigger presence in young lives than ever before. 

But exposing youth to gambling comes with significant risks. Children who are introduced to gambling at a young age are more likely to have a problem with gambling later in life. In Ohio, about 6.5 percent of 14–21-year-olds were at risk for problem gambling before the legalization of sports betting, and that number will likely increase with the start of legal sports betting in the state.

Because of the way their brains develop, teenagers are especially susceptible to taking risks without thinking about the consequences, which can lead to a problem with gambling that develops before they are even old enough to gamble legally, which in Ohio is age 21. “[The teenage brain] doesn’t understand risk the same way that an older brain does, and that’s a concern,” said Joshua Grubbs, a Bowling Green State University professor who studies gambling, in a recent Plain Dealer article on youth gambling

With sports betting expected to be an even bigger presence in Ohio in the coming years, educating parents, youth, caregivers, and other role models about the dangers of exposing children and teenagers to gambling via sports betting is growing in importance. That’s why the Change the Game Ohio campaign has assembled a toolkit of resources that prevention and community organizations can use to spread the word about the dangers of youth and teenage gambling. 

The toolkit includes: 

  • Print Ads, Posters, and Billboards: These assets can be printed out and distributed in places in your community that kids, teenagers, and parents go often, like recreation centers, community pools, or schools. 
  • Digital Ads and Social Media Graphics: Use these digital assets to raise awareness about the dangers of youth gambling in your part of Ohio, and to direct people to the resources on the Change the Game website. Include them on your organization’s website or social media feeds and encourage members of your community to share them widely. 
  • Promotional Videos and PSAs: Video is one of the most interactive ways to reach young people, and by posting these videos on your social media feeds or sharing them during classes, you can help raise awareness in a relatable way. 
  • Audio PSAs and Radio Spots: Including audio PSAs in local radio broadcasts or your organization’s podcast is an easy way to connect with young people while raising awareness about the dangers of youth gambling. 

Additional resources on the Change the Game Ohio website include discussion guides to help start a conversation with the youth in your life about problem gambling, and a wide variety of fact sheets for educators, parents, and youth. Visit the website today and get involved in preventing youth gambling in Ohio.

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