Lottery Tickets Bad Holiday Gifts for Teens, Say Problem Gambling Experts

Estimated read time 3 min read

Lottery tickets make poor gifts for those not old enough to play the games legally, as they could lead to those adolescents being exposed too early to gambling and, later, developing gaming problems. That’s according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

An advertisement from the Florida Lottery shows lottery tickets in Christmas stockings. The National Council on Problem Gambling says lottery tickets are poor presents for children. (Image: Florida Lottery)

The gift-giving season is underway, as the holidays are quickly approaching. The NCPG says the earlier a person is exposed to gambling in childhood, the likelier they are to develop a gambling problem or disorder later on in life. Responsible gaming experts say gambling exposure during childhood is most often through a lottery product like a holiday-themed scratch-off purchased by an adult who is unaware of the associated risks.

Problem gambling treatment providers say many adults who seek treatment tend to report gambling at an early age. The mission of the NCPG is to “minimize the economic and social costs associated with gambling addiction.”

The NCPG, in conjunction with 66 lotteries and 84 community organizations from around the world, has launched its 2023 Gift Responsibly Campaign. The public service announcement aims to spotlight the risks associated with purchasing lottery tickets for children.

Toys, Not Games of Chance

NCPG officials are encouraging adults to buy more traditional gifts like toys for the kids in their lives.

As we embrace the spirit of giving during the holiday season, it’s crucial to recognize that lottery tickets are not suitable gifts for children or teens,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the NCPG. “The Gift Responsibly campaign stands out as one of the largest international responsible gambling awareness campaigns, underlining our collective commitment to safeguarding youth and promoting responsible gambling practices worldwide.”

The NCPG estimates that two million U.S. adults, or about 1% of the population, meet the criteria to be classified as severe problem gamblers. Another 2%-3% are considered to have a mild or moderate gambling disorder.

The NCPG believes problem gambling delivers the U.S. a social cost of $7 billion annually. The nonprofit, which doesn’t support or oppose gaming, says “a vast majority of kids” have gambled before their 18th birthday.

The problem is thought to be escalating with the legal expansion of sports betting across the country. The NCPG estimates that 10%-14% of adolescents are at risk of developing a gambling problem, and 4%-6% already have one.

State Lotteries Issue PSAs

Along with the NCPG’s nationwide campaign about the dangers of purchasing lottery tickets for youths, state lotteries and gaming regulatory agencies are issuing parallel messages.

Many times, a child’s first exposure to gambling comes in the form of a gifted lottery ticket from a well-meaning adult who may be unaware of the associated risks,” said New York Gaming Commission Chair Brian O’Dwyer. “We encourage age-appropriate gifts this holiday season and throughout the year.”

Lottery gifts for adults can make great gifts, especially with the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots growing in value. The Powerball jackpot for Monday night’s drawing was an estimated $412 million. Mega Millions is at $377 million for Tuesday night’s drawing.

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