Scratch cards and lottery tickets might look like great stocking stuffer’s for children, with their colourful images of Santa, elves, reindeer or brightly wrapped gifts, but a number of North American and European lottery corporations are asking parents and caregivers to remember they are not appropriate for children.
Once again, McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors has partnered with the National Council on Problem Gambling to spread this important message. And at least 26 different lotteries in North America have joined in.
While this message might seem a bit like a double standard, given the extremely enticing imagery the lottery companies choose to use on their cards, the message itself is a really important one. Giving a lottery card or scratch ticket to a kid gives them the message that gambling is OK. It normalizes the whole thing. And in an industry where poker has come to pass for a sport (think the World Series of Poker on ESPN), this is no small thing.
Research shows that the gambling at a young age is actually a risk factor for problem gambling later on in adulthood. Pathological gamblers report their first experiences at ages of 9 or 10. And ironically, one of the worst things that can happen to a potential problem gambler is an early win — they simply become convinced they are truly luckier than everyone else.
Consider all of this in light of research saying that the majority of kids have received lottery or scratch cards as gifts. It’s a more socially acceptable version of Grandma handing them their first pack of smokes, or inviting them over for a beer. And since the immediacy of scratch cards and their notorious “near-win” design tends to hook kids (and adults) so quickly, they have been referred to as the “gateway drug” of gambling.
This year, resist the urge. Throw in another chocolate bar or a pack of stickers instead.