What was the research question?
Is exposure to other people’s gambling associated with past-month gambling, types of gambling activities, and at-risk or problem gambling among a sample of Australian adolescents?
What did the researchers do?
Students (n = 6,377) from 93 secondary schools in the Australian states of Victoria and Queensland participated in the Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey. Participants reported whether they had ever gambled and their past-month gambling behaviors, including the types of gambling activities they engaged in (i.e., hard or soft1). Students who reported ever gambling were screened for problem gambling. Participants were also asked whether their parent/caregiver, brother/sister, best friend, or other relative had gambled in the past month. The researchers assessed the associations between other people’s gambling and students’ past-month gambling, types of gambling activities, and at-risk or problem gambling.
What did they find?
Thirty-one percent of students in the sample reported ever gambling and six percent had gambled in the past month. Ten percent of students who ever gambled were classified as either experiencing at-risk (8%) or problem gambling (2%). One in five students reported that someone in their household gambled in the past month. Most frequently, students reported past-month gambling among fathers (16%), followed by other relatives (14%). Students were more likely to have gambled in the past month, played any hard gambling activity, and be classified as an at-risk or problem gambler if they had a parent/caregiver, brother/sister, best friend, or other relative who had gambled in the past month. Past-month gambling and at-risk/problem gambling were most likely among students whose parent/caregiver or best friend had gambled (see Figure).
Figure. Odds ratios of the association between other people’s gambling (parent/caregiver, brother/sister, best friend, other relative/someone else) and past-month gambling and at-risk/problem gambling among a sample of Australian secondary students (n = 6,377). Click image to enlarge.
Why do these findings matter?
These findings confirm the association between exposure to gambling in family and friends and gambling behaviors among adolescents. Young people with a parent/caregiver or close friend who gambled were most likely to have gambled recently, engaged in hard gambling activities, and to have experienced at-risk or problem gambling. These findings should inform future problem gambling prevention and education initiatives for young people, such as family-focused initiatives. Successful initiatives might also include skill development for young people, such as how to resist peer pressure to gamble.
Every study has limitations. What are the limitations of this study?
Data were self-reported, so the results might be subject to recall bias and social desirability bias. Because the study was based on a sample of adolescents and was conducted in Australia, the findings might not be generalizable to people in other places with different gambling landscapes.
1. Hard gambling activities are generally defined as having higher stakes or a more rapid pace of play (e.g., poker, casino games, sports betting) compared to soft gambling activities (e.g., lottery tickets, scratch cards).
The first time someone suggested I might have a gambling problem was in high school. Before I went on a casino trip that I won at an auction, my football coach pulled me aside. He told me to be careful with my gambling, to think about what I was going to do.
Looking back on it, I think it was really insightful for someone in the 1990s to realize that someone might have a gambling problem. Unfortunately, I ignored his advice.
I started gambling at a young age. By the time I was 10, I participated in church-related activities, including cake walks, nickel rolls and games of chance. I also played my share of Bingo.
I grew up at a time when casinos were just getting started in Minnesota, and I often went and gambled there although I was under age.
When I wanted to gamble, I would do whatever it took to get the high. This could be gambling in a casino, playing the lottery or playing cards. I bet on hockey games and would even bet with friends on how many times an elevator would stop at a floor. Everything in my life involved gambling and games of chance.
The first time I sought help for my gambling was around 2007, when I went to Project Turnabout. I didn’t finish treatment, but going there was an eye opener. They told me I was a compulsive gambler, an alcoholic and a drug addict. I didn’t want to hear any of it, so I left. But I did take something from it.
For the next 10 years, I still gambled, though I had bouts of being gambling-free. I was in and out of GA meetings.
I suppose if there were a turning point, it might have been in 2017 when a little old lady pulled me aside at a GA meeting. She was probably frustrated because I still gambled some. I remember she told me three things: 1. “You’re going to make it,” 2. “Whatever you do for the next 12 months, don’t gamble,” and 3. “Keep going to the meetings.”
I found that I took a natural bond to her and what she said. I built a trusting relationship with her. If someone else told me the same thing, it might not have stuck.
I now work as a treatment coordinator. At some point, I hope to work strictly with people who have gambling problems. I thought I would be a special education teacher but I became fascinated with the social services aspect. I feel I can help people in a different way and engage them in conversations about recovery.
My advice to people struggling with gambling is to go and check out many meetings. You will find one that feels right, and when you do, treasure it. Stay in the present moment as long and often as you can, get humble and be teachable.
Sean Copeland, an attorney for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is MNPGA’s newest board member. He brings the important perspective of tribal interests to MNPGA.
Sean first learned about MNAPG from attending Minnesota Indian Gambling Association (MIGA) meetings. Although he doesn’t have an in-depth knowledge of problem gambling, it’s an area that he hopes to better understand.
“One of the reasons I joined the board was so that I could learn more about problem gambling and hopefully bring some of that knowledge back to the Band and perhaps help implement some problem gambling solutions,” says Sean.
Sean has worked as an attorney for the Band since 2010 and has served as the Band’s tribal attorney since 2013. He performs legal work related to tribal governance, natural resources, education, healthcare and gaming.
Sean, who enjoys mountain biking around Duluth, grew up in Seattle but has lived all over the country. He came to Minnesota for a volunteer program and law school. “I previously worked in the criminal justice system as a prosecutor and public defender, which is one of the reasons I’m interested in problem gambling,” says Sean. “I’ve dealt with a lot of people with chemical dependency issues so I have some familiarity with addiction. I’m excited to be here and work on these important issues.”
MNAPG strives to provide as many resources as possible so that all Minnesotans are aware of the risks and harms of problem gambling. Over the past year, we’ve been working with people in specific communities to ensure that our most basic messaging is available in the many languages represented in Minnesota. You can request a list of the problem gambling warning signs in Spanish, Chinese, Hmong, Vietnamese and Somali, as well as English, by visiting https://form.jotform.com/221867275834062. We have also added a translate button on our website, which will provide access to 12 different languages: Chinese (simplified), Chinese(traditional), Haitian, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Somali, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. (Please note that we’re aware that the translations may not fully capture a specific community’s turn of phrase, or the English terms might not be readily translatable; we’re relying on an automated system.)
Over the last six months, we contracted with Preston Spire’s public relations team, One Simple Plan, to increase the visibility of numerous issues pertaining to problem gambling. Since starting this effort, MNAPG has had two op-ed pieces published, one which is circulating among various statewide outlets. This is important, as we want to reach as many Minnesotans as possible. The first piece was published in the Star Tribune and the second in the Duluth News Tribune. MNAPG also received air time on local stations, with interviews on KTTC (Rochester), KARE11 (Twin Cities) and Fox News 9 (Twin Cities). Our media communications can be found at mnapg.org/news.