Sports betting and online gambling sites are flagged by RISE Life as areas of concern for children who engage in underage gambling.
Richard Henry, programme manager of addiction counselling and support services at RISE Life Management raised the concerns while addressing a workshop themed, “Underage Gambling a fiwi business fi true,” held recently.
The workshop was hosted by the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) in partnership with the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) and RISE Life Management Services to facilitate discussion on ways parents could work together to address the issue of underage gaming.
“This one is very concerning – sports betting. Even if underage persons aren’t able to go and purchase tickets…they have friends, who are of age, who will (purchase the tickets) for them. Sports betting is also catching on in Jamaica and a lot of betting activities are taking place,” he informed.
He pointed out that online gambling sites are now becoming problematic for underage children as these sites are easily accessible. He urged parents and guardians to be more vigilant.
Henry recommended that parents should start having conversations with their non-gambling children as early as 10 years old, citing the fact that youths now live in an era where legal gambling has become socially acceptable. A 2007 RISE Life Management study, funded by BGLC, found that one in every five adolescents in Jamaica was either a problem gambler or at risk of becoming one.
A total of 1,559 males and 740 females between the ages of 10 and 19 were recruited from across the island for the study. Males were seen to and continue to be the more susceptible to gambling, he said.
Sixty-eight per cent of youth in the 2007 study were reported to be exposed to gambling for which the legal age is 18 years.
“We can’t continue to operate in the same manner. We have to now bring in the reinforcements,” Henry said, noting that the issue has to be tackled at the family, school and community levels as gambling disorders can affect an individual’s social, family and occupational life while also affecting one’s psychological and physical health.
He also pointed out that gambling is a family tradition in some homes, therefore; urging families with a history of gambling to pay attention to the practice that could potentially affect children in that family.
Meanwhile, Jeanette Lewis, corporate affairs and communications manager at the BGLC, noted that the agency’s mission is to enable a viable and reputable gambling industry and engender a culture of responsible gambling to ensure that it is offered in a safe and socially responsible environment, where potential harm is minimised.
She said the BGLC is urging parents, mentors, and caregivers to educate children on the risks and harms of engaging in the activity prematurely.
Nancy Pinchas, executive director of CVSS underscored the importance of the workshop. “These are invaluable lessons to alert parents and caregivers for the telltale signs of underage gambling and even more importantly why it is important to address underage gambling. It is not innocuous fun and harmless behaviour as Richard clearly outlines. It is a behaviour that impacts the child in a number of ways and can have long-term outcomes,” which she said can lead to further addictions.
To report illegal gambling, persons are encouraged to contact the police through Crime Stop Jamaica at 311. For help, the RISE Life Management Services can be contacted through a 24-hour phone service at 876-967-3777 or toll-free at 1-888-991-4146.