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New report shows most parents don’t know if their kids are online gambling

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Online betting is big business, here in Michigan and nationwide. From betting on sports to online casinos, the digital age brings the fun and the hazards of gambling into our homes through smartphones.

It’s a temptation for many of us, even kids and teens. Now, a recent national survey that says too many parents are in the dark.

Despite its ever present nature, many parents are unaware of many aspects of online betting and the implication. That’s according to Sarah Clark, the co-director of The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

“What do parents know about online gambling and teens?” I asked.

“In a word – little,” Clark said.

The poll finds roughly 2/3 of parents say they’ve seen the online gaming ads, but only 2% says their teens between the ages of 14-18 have ever participated in online gambling.

Clark compares it to social media where users have to be at least 13 to create an account. Yet kids get around the rules.

So with gambling, most parents don’t think their kids rolling the die on online wagering and 75% says they haven’t talked to their teen about betting online.

“My concern is we’re missing the boat here and teens can get involved in this without really getting any support or explanation from their parents,” Clark said.

That may be in part because parents have a lot to learn by themselves. More than 1/2 of parents don’t know the legal age for online betting.

In Michigan and most states, the minimum age is 21. But five states allow online gaming for those as young as 18, and some gambling sites don’t require proof of age and other sites are overseas. Both are major loopholes.

“Even at 21, 23, their brains are still developing. With this online gaming, with this 24/7 thing, you can get into trouble quickly,” Clark said.

Especially with online gaming taking on the look and feel of the apps and games teens have already been playing on their phones. With similar graphics, bonus points and the chance to win real money.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board doesn’t currently collect data on underage gambling in the state. That will start in the fiscal year 2025.

However, it does collect information on treatment referrals from helplines. From 2020 to 2023, there were 239 referrals for help from problem gamblers under 30. Six percent were underage, and one was as young as 11.

A 2023 survey of 158 New Jersey teens and young adults by Seton Hall University found 13% of those who gambled started at 15-16 years old, 25% at 17-18 and 35% at 19-20.

If your child is betting online there may be signs.

  • Are they Asking for money more frequently?
  • Is there Missing money or valuables around the house?
  • Do they have extra money and new expensive items all of a sudden?
  • Do they sudden have a surge of interest in sports and in new teams?
  • Are they Checking their phone constantly during sporting events?

If you want to know if your child is engaging in online betting, The first step is to ask.
Clark says awareness, education and open conversations are key, because like so many threats to our children the dangers of online betting begin far earlier than many parents suspect.

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