Washington state sees teen gambling problems

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Some Washington state teens like to gamble, according to a report issued Monday by the state Department of Social and Health Services.

More than 2,000 high school seniors taking the 2008 Healthy Youth Survey said they already were having problems with gambling behaviors, despite not being old enough to legally participate in card rooms and casinos.

The behavior often begins at home, when older family members or other adults teach children to gamble at a young age. Those adults likely have little idea that someone gambling by age 12 will be four times more likely to develop a gambling addiction and a lifetime of problems, said Jennifer Gau, DSHS spokeswoman.

In a study conducted by the Washington Council on problem gambling in 1998, 8.4 percent of youth were found at risk for developing a gambling problem. This was before ESPN made poker a sport, and "Texas hold 'em" became a household activity, the report noted.

It also was before the expansion of gambling in Washington state and across the nation in more recent years.

Here are some signs your teen has problems with gambling:

Does your child talk about gambling activities or about gambling with friends, or bring gambling up in the conversation frequently?

Does your teen seem to be away from the house more and more and seem to be spending or asking for money more often?

Have you noticed that things are missing like iPods, cell phones, expensive shoes or jackets, or has your child has reported "lost" or "stolen" items?

Does your child sport new shoes or jackets or electronic equipment that he or she should not have the resources to purchase?

Has your teen committed illegal acts?

Is your teen neglecting homework, chores, and personal time commitments such as attending a sibling's ball game or doing chores?

Have you noticed that your teen is lying to you, particularly if that hasn't been a pattern in the past?

Is your teen agitated when he or she is not allowed to participate in activities away from your house?

Any one of these signs by themselves may not indicate a problem and some standing alone may look like more or less normal teen behavior. However, if several of these ring true, parents need to assess the situation, Gau advised.

For more information visit www.notagame.org and www.notazander.com.

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