Some of the most popular gambling sites are those that offer poker and other card games where tournaments can be played and children can make live bets against other members for money. In regards to problem gambling, poker has become one of the top three gambling addictions. To many poker is seen as the new sport of the century. Tournaments are televised, we watch celebrities play poker on TV, and now kids can have their own version of casino style poker right at their fingertips. Many parents may not even be aware of the fact that their children are involved in online gambling until it is to late.
In November, 2009 a single mother of a 15 year old boy told the horrifying story of her sons secret online gambling addiction that cost them almost everything that they had.
Leslie Cramer, of Ladera Ranch. Ca. is the single mother of five children. Four of her children are grown and living on their own except for her youngest son Andrew, 15. The Cramers were facing hard times just as many others is in today's economy. Leslie had always made a great deal of money as a private RN but recently lost the client she cared for and was having a hard time finding a comparable salary. Living in a more upscale neighborhood in California and trying to make ends meet, Leslie was left stressed and her struggles often showed.
Andrew, a sophomore in high school, was a star student. He was part of the high school football team, a great athlete, and brilliant with web design and video production. Andrew spent much of his time with his older brother as his mother worked long hours as an RN. Andrews older brother introduced him to online gambling a few months back. In the recent months Andrews grades started to slip, he quit football, and lost interest in almost all of the things he use to love. Andrews mother figured the changes were due to him being a typical teenager. Leslie was aware of her son playing poker online but figured it was a way for her two sons to connect, it was something fun they did together and she was told no real money was involved. She never had reason to doubt her son as he has always been honest and was a good kid. Additionally, she never considered money being a factor as she knew her son had no access to money.
Over time Leslie began seeing her bank statement balance decrease. At first she figured it was a bill here and there, being busy with work she brushed off the subsiding dollar amount in her savings account. After a few weeks she decided to call the bank as her balance was now substantially low and had gotten significantly lower within a few short days. Upon contacting the bank she was informed that over $7,000 had been spent on internet transactions over the course of a few months. At first she contemplated where the money had gone, how it got spent, was it fraud? She decided to go into the bank and spent hours investigating the charges. Upon returning home she confronted her son, she asked him to log into his account on Poker Stars, where he spent most of his time playing online poker, he refused. She asked again, and again he refused. Finally being left with no other choice he admitted what he had done, with his head hung low Andrew muttered the words, "I spent the money, it was me". Leslie teared up as she re-told this story, her eyes were filled with both hurt and disappointment.
Apparently Andrew was concerned about his mothers financial state and after his older brother introduced him to the world of online gambling he felt he could help. He gained access to her bank account information and signed up for an account that drafted money from her savings account. No one knows just how he squeezed through the system as a 15 year old, but he did. Sadly, an innocent gesture turned into a horrible addiction that cost his mother her entire savings. The sudden recent increase in money he spent gambling was due to the fact that he became worried, he wasn't winning the money he had planned on and he was spending more than he knew he should be. The more he spent, the more he lost. The more he lost, the more he spent. Like any gambling addict he was caught in a vicious cycle looking for that win, the win that makes it all better. But for this story, like so many others, nothing got better- it only got worse. Andrew is now left with a great deal of guilt. He knows he was wrong and knows that it became a very bad and addicting habit. Even more upsetting is knowing that someone he loved, his older brother, introduced him to such an addicting habit. Leslie had a huge eye opener as a mother and is now left with an excessive amount of debt as they were living off of that savings while she was looking for a higher paying job. If only she has seen the signs sooner.
Most children who find their way into the world of gambling do so by learning from others. It is usually parents who set this example and children tend to follow. In this case it was an older sibling. Regardless of where it is learned, it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The implications of underage gambling are detrimental. The Gambling Commission did an extensive study in 2008 and they found a great deal of important information in regards in regards to children and gambling:
~Introduction to gambling early on in life can increase the likelihood of becoming an addictive gambler later in life.
~Children of parents who are heavy gamblers are more likely to become problem gamblers themselves.
~Boys are more likely than girls to develop gambling problems.
~Children with gambling problems are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
~Children with gambling problems are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and or attempts.
~Children with gambling problems are more likely to perform poorly at school.
These findings are a huge wake-up call, especially to parents. Although online sites are suppose to restrict access to children there is no full proof way to keep kids out. Parents must be aware of how and when their children are using the internet. Another study, conducted by ICM on behalf of NCH and Tesco Telecoms, found that 13% of children are never supervised while using the internet. In addition, 46% of children can get around blocked websites that their parents may have placed and 65% of children know how to clear website history (NCH and Tesco Telecoms 2006).
Our children are much more technologically inclined than we may know. It is our responsibility to keep them safe and share the affects of gambling and it's addictiveness.
If you feel your child may suffer from gambling addiction help, advice, and treatment referrals can be obtained through the National Council On Problem Gambling's confidential hotline at: 1-8000-522-4700.
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