Underage Gambling: A Blind Bet

Hannah Blackmore, Freelance Writer

In Missouri, underage gambling is a topic of high importance with severe outcomes and consequences among young adults. In fact, throughout the years, studies have claimed underage gambling as a growing public health concern. However, many teenagers, including myself, still know very little about the illegality of underage gambling, its forms, and its negative implications on both teenagers and society.

Underage gambling in Missouri occurs when a person who is under 21 years old risks something of monetary value in order to gain more in return. But, what does that exactly mean? Underage gambling and illegal gambling can exist through sports betting, dice games, internet gambling, some card games, or even illegal slot machines. Talk about a blind bet! Even more, with the accessibility of internet gambling and gambling movies like 21, that have an appeal to younger audiences, underage gambling has shown a steady increase among teens.

In addition, recent studies have proven that teenagers are among the highest risk group for gambling with reportedly 10-15% teenagers at risk. Arguably, this is two times greater than adults who have pathological gambling problems. Furthermore, early peer gambling, and the inability of adolescents to understand the negative outcomes of underage gambling can lead to an onset of problematic and pathological gambling habits later in life.

As a result, underage gambling can lead to a series of trends later life including using illegal drugs, criminal behavior, smoking, and underage drinking. In the article, “Kids Gambling-And Losing” by Francie Grace, Grace describes these trends with the research found at International Center for Youth Gambling Problem in Montreal Canada through a series of researchers. The International Center for Youth Gambling Problem’s co-director, Jeff Dervensky, discusses the “illusion of control” presented by online gambling to adolescents with the effect being gratifying, thus leading to greater issues in life. In another study by Marc Potenza in the article, “Adolescent Gambling,” he also discusses the long-term effects of underage gambling. For instance, underage gambling can lead to strained relationships, poor academics, increased anxiety, mental health issues, and emotional dependency on gambling.

Overall, underage gambling and its effects are very harmful both mentally and financially. Not only can you gamble something of value, but underage gambling at an early age is a misdemeanor in the state of Missouri, resulting in a $500 fine or six months in jail. Also, with little research done on underage gambling, it is hard to predict the future of those who put themselves blindly at risk. Ultimately, it is crucial to understand the effects of underage gambling and its forms to minimize pathological gambling among teens and raise awareness. So, why take the risk?