Internet Gambling Stays Low Among Youth Ages 14 to 22 But Access to Gambling Sites Continues; Sports Gambling Makes Resurgence

    After last year’s precipitous decline, card playing for money on the Internet has remained at the same low level among both high school and college-age males, according to the latest National Annenberg Survey of Youth.

    Card playing for money at least once a month on the Internet among male youth remained at the same level in 2008 (3.3%) as in 2007 (2.4%) (see Table 1). Weekly rates of gambling also did not change, going from 1.1% to 1.7% (see Table 2). Card playing in general remained at about the same levels for both monthly (26.0% to 25.6%) and weekly (5.0% to 4.2%) play (see also Figure 1).

    “The card playing fad that we saw earlier in the decade appears to have lost its steam among young people ages 14 to 22,” said Dan Romer, director of the Annenberg Adolescent Risk Communication Institute that conducts the annual survey. In addition, the strong drop in weekly use of Internet sites following passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 appears to remain in place.

    Despite the leveling off of card playing, access to Internet gambling sites remains open to those youth who are able to bypass the law by using third-party payment systems.  Projected on a national basis, more than 300,000 youth in the study age range (14 to 22) gamble for money at least once a week on the Internet, and over 700,000 do so at least once a month.

    New regulations under the UIGEA have recently been released by the U.S. Treasury Department (www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/hp1266.htm). It remains to be seen how these rules will affect access to Internet poker play in young people.

    “The continued use of online gambling sites by many young people indicates that they are still risking their financial futures on poker,” added Romer. “This calls for continued efforts to educate young people about the hazards of Internet gambling.”

    Other Forms of Gambling

    The relative stability of card playing did not extend to other forms of gambling, especially sports betting. Male youth reported increased betting on sports, going from 20.7 percent on a monthly basis in 2007 to 26.4 percent in 2008. Betting on sports also increased on a weekly basis, going from 5.0 percent to 9.7 percent. In total, other forms of gambling (sports, slots, lotteries, and horse racing) increased from 31.4 percent to 38.9 percent on a monthly basis in male youth. Nevertheless, the long-term trend in weekly gambling since the survey started has been downward, going from 20.3 percent in 2002 to this year’s 14.6 percent in males and from 9.2 percent to 4.4 percent in females.

    Problem Gambling Symptoms Remain Stable in Male Youth

    Symptoms of problem gambling tend to parallel card-playing trends. Among male youth, those who reported some type of gambling on a weekly basis and who reported at least one symptom of problem gambling stayed about the same as last year (6.1% in 2007 vs. 7.8% in 2008). Although these rates of problem symptoms have not risen since last year, they do suggest that a significant proportion of youth are at risk for disorders related to problem gambling.

    Gambling Rates and Problems Lower in Young Women

    Gambling of all kinds in young women tends to lag behind men. About 25 percent of young women report any gambling on a monthly basis compared to about 48 percent of young men. Although about 8 percent of young women report playing cards for money on a monthly basis, Internet use tends to be small, with less than 1 percent report playing online. Not surprisingly, young women report much lower rates of problem gambling symptoms, about 1 percent overall.