Now legal in all but two states, gambling -- whether it's the lottery, bingo,
or poker night -- has gained significant popularity and is seen as a generally
harmless form of entertainment.
Researchers say parents do not worry about
exposing their children to this habit as they might with alcohol or smoking.
is a situation where many parents still do assume that it's better for a kid to
be gambling than to be out on the streets doing drugs or whatever," Dr. Rachel
Volberg, president of Gemini Research, which specializes in gambling studies,
told the Christian Science Monitor.
But gambling is addictive. Studies show
that problem gamblers exhibit similar functional changes in their brain's decision-making
center as drug addicts and alcoholics.
"The neurobiology of what happens
when somebody is gambling is much the same as what happens when they are taking
cocaine," said gambling addiction expert at the Center for Addiction and
Substance Abuse at the University of South Florida Linda Chamberlain on MedicineNet.com.
have also found that the more exposure a child has to gambling, the more likely
he or she will become a compulsive gambler -- as a teen and into adulthood.
4 percent to 5 percent of adult gamblers will develop a serious gambling problem,
underage gamblers are three times as likely as adults to become compulsive gamblers.
gambling habits can lead to stealing from others and abusing their parents' credit
Researchers at the National Council on Problem Gambling suggest
that teens with a gambling problem are more likely to engage in risky behavior
such as unsafe sex, binge drinking, smoking marijuana and skipping school.
also have the highest suicide rate of any addicted group. In 1997 a 19-year-old
New Yorker killed himself, leaving a suicide note blaming a lost $6,000 bet on
the World Series.