How to talk to kids about gambling

If you grew up at a time when gambling was viewed as an extraordinary activity rather than an ordinary way to spend time, you are probably missing one thought. Your kid might be feeling very differently about gambling because the world we live in has changed a lot.

Today’s children are exposed to the notion of gambling much more than we were: they use free applications that often address generous gambling and sports betting companies for sponsorship and display numerous ads in return…

They play games that imply betting in one way or another — online and with their peers. Researchers notice that more and more mobile games have features designed to stir gambling-like reactions and hooking mechanisms. At the same time, software developers and designers do their best to make the interface of their games gripping and bright and fill the game with fun mechanics and bonuses. Just look at some newly released online slots and their Free Spins: the quality of visuals and immersion compares to the best video game.

Our kids can’t watch a football match with their grandpa or dad without hearing about a chance to place a wager and make the evening even more exciting…

Even though all of us seem to acknowledge that under-aged gambling is illegal (as every land-based venue or online platform always highlights it), statistics claim that the number of teens facing gambling issues increases year by year.

Plus, a 2004 psychiatric study showed that there is a correlation between the age when a person tries gambling and the behavioural gaming pattern they are likely to develop in the future. According to it, the earlier they start, the worse they can stay in control of the process.

Meanwhile, surveys bring to life another impressive number: almost 70% of parents never discuss gambling and sports betting with their children.

How to talk to kids about gambling

What to say?

We definitely think that such a conversation is a must. Those who have found themselves in the 70% ‘silent group’ because they have never thought about the importance of the topic or just don’t know how to do it might find this paragraph useful. Don’t be shy and exploit it as a go-to guide.

Don’t hide from it, and don’t make it a big deal

Whether you see a gambling ad pop up on TV or in a mobile app, or maybe you hear someone’s story of a dazzling casino success or mind-boggling failure, don’t freeze and don’t panic. You’d better catch that moment even before your kid voices the straightforward question. Such a spontaneous moment is one of the best opportunities you could ask for: the talk will look natural.

If you realise that there is not too much time on your hands, don’t try to cover everything you want to say in one sitting: just let your kids know that this topic is open for discussion and tell them that they can ask any other topic-related question anytime in the future. It will be even better if you keep the talk short and casual.

Start talking. Be normal, don’t take that lecturer/preacher’s tone. Instead, why don’t you say something like this:

  • Have you noticed the ad?
  • What do you think the ad is about?
  • What is gambling/sports betting/an online casino? What do you think about it?

Listen to what your child has to say about it. And don’t pretend to listen — LISTEN.

Don’t make it into a tedious monologue full of moral ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. Your kid will be much more thrilled if you discuss the things they have in mind, their thoughts and worries. So, build all the conversation around the child’s view on the topic and their insights. (You might even get a fresher outlook on the matter as well.) Then, the kid will listen, be more receptive and not freeze in return.

Make the conversation as relevant to the kid’s life as possible. Try saying something like that:

  • Have you ever gambled?
  • Do you know anyone who has done it?
  • Does any game you’ve played remind you of what you understand by ‘gambling’?

Cover the most crucial things and don’t get too grim

You could name the games that are considered ‘games of chance’ and mention that they are designed in a way for casinos to win in the long run. Mention that none of the games is advantageous to a player, and a person may never win in a lifetime.

Talk a little about managing the budget and set the record straight: you can’t ever make a living on it. Tell your kid that the expenses of gambling are just like spendings on any form of entertainment, and there is no point in chasing casino money.

Draw a couple of bright pictures: someone wins $X one night and loses $10xX the next night because people don’t really feel the value of money that falls on them ‘from the sky’. This kind of cash will never stay in your pocket because you haven’t really worked for it.

Practice what you preach

We all know that rather than educating our kids, we should educate ourselves first, as they will always subconsciously copy the behaviour they witness. So, all in all, the main thing you need to do is follow the principles of responsible gambling and be very clear about why it is important.

We are not saying that you should stop buying lottery tickets if you enjoy them and play safely or never have family games of Poker, for instance. But you have to be extremely careful and mindful about the way you behave in these situations and demonstrate that the most fun is in the process, not the winnings. And if you lack some knowledge about responsible gambling, it’s time to read up on it.

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