According to a 1997 meta-analysis study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, most young people who gamble do so on non-casino card games, games of skill, sports and lottery—not at commercial casinos, where patrons must be 21 or older to place a bet. (Shaffer, H.J., Hall, M.N., and Vander Bilt, J. “Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: a meta-analysis.” Boston: Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College. 1997. Shaffer, H.J., Hall, M.N., and Vander Bilt, J. “Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A research synthesis.” American Journal of Public Health, 89, pp. 1369-1376. 1999.)
This finding was echoed in research conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission:
- “Youths 16 and 17 years old gamble less than adults and differently from adults, primarily betting on private and unlicensed games—especially betting on card games and sports and buying instant lottery tickets.” (National Opinion Research Center. Gambling Behavior and Impact Study: Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. p. ix. April 1, 1999.)
- “Casino gambling (especially slot machines) was the second most common form of adult gambling, with one-quarter of all adults participating in the past year. The adolescents [16-17 year olds] were notably absent from casino play, with barely 1 percent reporting any casino wagers. This presumably reflects well on the enforcement efforts (particularly against fake IDs) of casino operators, among other factors.” (National Opinion Research Center. Gambling Behavior and Impact Study: Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. p. 63. April 1, 1999.)
Preventing underage gambling always has been a high priority for commercial casino companies. The AGA and its member companies have put into place a number of policies to prevent gambling by minors, including thorough staff training on properly certifying the age of patrons suspected of being underage, advertising that discourages youth gambling and more. The prevention of underage gambling also is addressed in the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming.
In 2008, the National Canter for Responsible Gaming (NCRG)—the AGA’s affiliated charity—released “Talking with Children about Gambling,” a brochure designed to help parents and others who mentor youth deter children from gambling and other risky behaviors. The brochure was developed by the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders and includes information about the games young people play, the prevalence of gambling-related problems among youth and tips for parents on communicating about gambling.
While preventing underage gambling is a business imperative on its own, commercial casino companies have further reason to implement proactive measures that discourage and prevent the behavior because they are subject to substantial fines if they fail to enforce regulations on underage gambling.
With regard to gambling disorders, research does show that the prevalence of disordered gambling is consistently higher among youth than adults; however, it also shows that this prevalence rate has remained stable over the past 30 years. According to the most recent update of the Harvard Medical School meta-analysis of the prevalence of gambling disorders in the U.S. and Canada, approximately 5 percent of adolescents will experience serious problems with gambling. (Shaffer, H.J., LaBrie, R., LaPlante D., Nelson, S.E. and Stanton, M. “The road less travelled: Moving from distribution to determinants in the study of gambling epidemiology.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(8), pp. 159-171. 2004.)