Teens & Gambling: What Parents Need to Know

The Risks of Teen Gambling are Real

Legalized gambling is prohibited to minors in all jurisdictions. However, youth who gamble, start at age 12. In fact, a high percentage of young people report having gambled in some form or experienced harms from gambling before they reach 19.

This includes casino-style games on social networking sites, dares or challenges between friends, sports betting and instant win tickets. With more and more teenagers spending additional time online, the risks of online gambling, including sports betting, are higher.


The Responsible Gambling Council’s youth awareness program GAME BRAiN is designed to educate high school students on the risks of youth gambling. Here is some information to help you start the conversation at home.


of high school students have gambled in the past three months.¹

The Facts

  • 1 in 10 adolescents had gambled online in the past 3 months, with sports pools being the most popular type of game.²
  • Teenagers who gambled online reported more gambling problems than those who played at land-based venues.³
  • 12.4% of adolescents had played online simulated gambling games in the past 3 months (free poker, slots, or gambling games on Facebook). ⁴
  • Those who had played simulated gambling games were more likely to gamble for money and to have gambling problems. 5


Early Warning Signs

Gambling problems aren’t often visible like alcohol or drugs and can be overlooked.

Here are some signs that your teen may have a problem with gambling:

  • Skipping classes to gamble
  • Spending less time with friends or avoiding family get-togethers to gamble
  • Lying about gambling – how much they are gambling or how much they have spent gambling
  • Poor nutrition, health and sleep
  • Borrowing or stealing money or things of value to gamble
  • Drinking and/or drug use
  • Thinking about gambling frequently

Talking Makes a Difference

A bet on a hockey game. A friendly lunchtime card game. The purchase of a virtual lootbox. While these activities may seem harmless, they can lead to serious problems. It’s a good idea to raise the issue of gambling with your kids before it becomes a problem.

How to Start a Conversation

  1. Choose the right time: Initiating conversation after seeing a commercial about gambling, during a casual walk, on the couch following a Netflix show, or washing the dishes after a meal are all excellent opportunities to begin the discussion.
  2. Listen: When discussing issues, it’s important to actively listen, your teen will be more receptive to the message if it’s conversational.
  3. Keep it short: Short conversations will drive the message home. Long winded lectures may have your teen tuning out before too long.
  4. Be relevant: Tailor the conversation to their interests. For example: If your child enjoys playing video games, consider discussing eSports betting.

What You Can Do to Help Your Teen

Talk about the risks posed by non-casino games, like sports betting, poker, online gambling, and gaming

Reveal the hidden signs of a problem, like hiding debts, skipping classes or work

Lead by example. Teens learn from your gambling habits. If you talk about responsible gambling and have a plan to protect yourself, they will too

Stress with your teen that gambling is not a way to make money

1. Elton-Marshall, Leatherdale, & Turner, 2016
2. lbid
3. Ibid
4. Veselka et al. 2018
5. Ibid