Teen gambling: What parents should know
Gambling means risking money or a valuable object in a game, contest or activity where the end result depends on chance. Gambling can take many forms, such as:
- Lotteries (e.g., Lotto 6/49, Lotto Max)
- Instant lotteries (scratch cards)
- Betting card games (in person or online) like poker or blackjack.
- Private sports betting/sports lotteries
- Casino games
- Video game terminals (includes slot machines available at restaurants)
- Online gambling
- Dice games
Do children and teens gamble?
Most Canadian teens say they have gambled at least once, either at home or at school. It’s important for parents to know when and how gambling can become a problem, and to be alert to a child’s habits.
- Children often start gambling with family members—buying lottery tickets, playing cards or bingo for money, or receiving lottery or scratch tickets as presents.
- Underage gambling is common in Canada and can start in children as young as 9 or 10 years old.
- As they get older, teens usually gamble more with their friends and classmates.
- Gambling problems are most common among boys.
Are there gambling laws in Canada?
Gambling in Canada is regulated by provincial and territorial governments. The legal gambling age ranges from 18 to 19, depending on the type of activity and the province or territory.
When is gambling a problem?
Gambling becomes a problem when a person:
- frequently spends more money than they meant to.
- plays for longer periods of time than planned.
- gambles instead of taking care of other responsibilities (doing things that will help them develop as teenagers).
- can’t stop thinking about gambling.
- has difficulty cutting down or stopping their gambling.
What are signs that my teen might have a gambling problem?
If you are concerned that your teen is gambling, be alert for:
- Physical changes: trouble sleeping, being tired or run down, eating less or more, and problems focusing on or remembering things.
- Emotional struggles: mood swings, depression, anxiety.
- Problems at school: falling grades, attendance or behavioural issues.
- Troubles in relationships with family or friends.
- Money problems or missing possessions, frequent job changes, asking to borrow money from family or friends, or a sudden increase in spending money.
- Substance abuse issues: alcohol consumption or using drugs.
How can I protect my teen from a gambling problem?
- Be involved. Talk with and listen to your teen about what they do with their friends, and the places they go.
- Set clear rules and consequences for your teen’s behaviour and stick to them.
- Limit or eliminate gambling activities at home and replace them with other family activities.
- Explain the risks of gambling activities to your teen.
- Lead by example. Your teen will learn from your gambling habits. If you talk about responsible gambling habits, such as playing with moderation and setting limits, your teen will be more likely to act responsibly towards gambling.
- Monitor your teen’s computer, personal electronic and gaming devices for gambling apps.
Where can I go for help?
Talk to your health professional. Many communities also have gambling hotlines and support programs and resources to help you get informed and seek help for your teen.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Adolescent Health Committee
Last Updated: July 2017