I would like to stop talking about youth gambling. But I can’t, because the problem is very big and getting bigger.
Let the record show that I’m not against poker—if it’s played simply as a card game. But I must say that poker is almost synonymous with gambling, and the current poke craze sweeping the country makes Texas Hold ‘Em and other poker games a growing threat to youth well-being.
Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, says, “Gambling has become the most popular high-risk activity among teenagers, outpacing drinking, taking drugs, or smoking.” According to NCPG studies, 70% of 12 to 17 year olds have gambled in the past year. (See Margery D. Rosen, “Junior High Rollers,” Family Circle, (February 2006), p. 26+.)
Parents are buying poker starter sets for their children. Middle schoolers are playing poker for money in their family rooms. Some parents think this is harmless activity, perhaps even a better alternative than being out with friends, doing drugs or abusing alcohol. Yet young people are embracing another equally dangerous, pattern forming, and for some addicting, behavior capable of ruining their lives.
Americans continue to believe that gambling is a harmless game, that the money they lose in gambling is no different than any other misspent entertainment monies. But gambling is different. It gets under your skin, and it gets under the skin of adolescents even more quickly and dangerously. Few if any people become addicted to movies, eating out, golfing, boating, hunting, or shopping. These forms of entertainment cost money and maybe an individual spends beyond his or her means, but these activities still do not typically possess the incredible capacity to harm found in gambling.
Gambling via poker may be a game, but just like in the Old West, it’s a game that—eventually—almost always brings pain and penury and almost never brings profit. I wish parents could see this.
I say to parents, “Model good stewardship with your funds, teach your children to do the same: to develop a good work ethic, to save and invest, and to be generous by giving freely to good causes. And tell them that whatever they do, to stay away from gambling. Tell your kids that gambling is a house of cards that always comes crashing down.”
Parents, I don’t care how much money you have or make available to your children. Ask your children if they are gambling. Ask them specific questions about poker, online gambling sites, sports wagering at school or work, and more. Find out what they know, what they are doing, and what they say their friends are doing. Then talk about the bad economics of gambling, the way it masquerades as a game, the way it can, like a snake in the grass, lay quietly and unseen for a long time before it bites you. Talk to them about honoring God in all that they do, including how they handle their time, talent, and treasure. Keep talking to them. And above all, do not gamble yourself.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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