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Scratch and win games aren’t for kids

Scratch and win tickets seem like harmless fun. You scratch a few boxes, see if you won, and you’re done. It’s not like you’re putting down lots of money on the table, so it’s probably no big deal if you let your kids play too, right? 

Wrong.

Lasting repercussions of early gambling 

Adults sometimes purchase lottery tickets for kids as a gift, putting them in birthday cards, for example. What seems like a nice gesture and a simple gift may be setting kids up for trouble later in life. Scratch and win tickets themselves aren’t the only issue. Letting kids gamble may cause them to create a positive association with gambling that lasts. Establishing a pattern of playing with lottery tickets from an early age, and reinforcing these positive associations of gambling with love and happiness could lead to difficulties establishing and sticking to responsible and safe gambling habits later in life.

Young minds are malleable, and kids are not capable of properly assessing risk. (Though, let’s be honest, some adults aren’t great at it either.) The cognitive function required for risk assessment doesn’t reach full development until well past adolescence, so it’s best to steer kids away from gambling entirely until they have a better ability to make sound decisions. At Gamesense, we suggest that anyone under the age of 19 refrains from all types of gambling, including lottery tickets and scratch and win games.

Children see, children do

Kids don’t even need to play the games to be attracted to them. A recent Australian study found that kids’ impressions of gambling products are influenced by family members, as well as “culturally valued events,” such as sports. In other words, kids are sponges, soaking up what they see in their community, culture and family, and forming impressions that may last a long time, if not indefinitely. When it comes to gambling, that might lead to destructive behaviour.

Monitoring online use

Of course, in today’s ever-connected internet age, scratch and win tickets are hardly the only way for kids to gamble. They’re likely not even the most common. Online gambling continues to rise in popularity, and with it comes the risk of young people joining in. Monitoring young people’s online behaviour can be hard to do, but it’s worth thinking about for many reasons, including the possibility that they are gambling.

One of the first steps in the right direction is simply to talk to your kids about gambling. Ask them what they know about it, whether their friends gamble, and if they understand the consequences of playing. It’s wise to be clear about your expectations when it comes to kids and gambling. Above all, one of the best things you can do is to model good responsible gambling behaviour. 

Want to know more? Visit our resources for families page to find more information on how to help your kids and other family members maintain healthy gambling habits.