JIS News

There is a growing gambling problem among young persons between 10 and 19 years of age.
The findings have surfaced in the Jamaica Child and Adolescent Gambling Survey 2007, which was conducted recently by Hope Enterprise Limited on behalf of RISE Life Management Services.
Speaking at the launch of the survey, which was held on November 30 at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in Kingston, Executive Director of RISE Life Management Services, Sonita Abrahams pointed out that 10.7 per cent of the sample was found to be problem gamblers and an additional 9.6 per cent classified as at risk.
“What this translates to is that one out of every five adolescents or basically 20 per cent of the population between the ages of 10 and 19 is either a problem gambler or is at risk of becoming one,” she further pointed out.
The study, she said, had its genesis in the fact that when members of the team went into the classrooms, they found more and more frequent episodes of gambling.
The objectives of the survey were to explore the prevalence of youth gambling in Jamaica to establish a baseline measurement for the incidence, behaviour and relationships relating to gambling among adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 as well as to identify risk and protective factors influencing youth gambling in Jamaica.
Miss Abrahams noted that the non-existence of information on gambling among Jamaican and Caribbean youth as well as the increased prevalence of gambling opportunities and the need to ensure that interventions were informed by accurate information, were the key factors driving the survey.
The study explored gambling behaviour among adolescents in and out of school as well as street children. A total of 1,559 males and 740 females were included in the sample.
Based on the survey, some respondents said they gambled because it was exciting and fun; some said that they did it for entertainment purposes while others said they did it in order to win money.
“Most of them are gambling at home, on the street or at school and the opportunities are enormous. There is a high exposure to gambling in this age group and the children are spending their time in bars, betting shops and gaming lounges,” Miss Abrahams informed.
Commenting on the risk factors in gambling, she explained that these were similar to those of substance abuse. These include being male and having a close family member who gambled, especially if they also perceive gambling as fun and exciting; and early age gambling initiation.
“Accepting attitudes of gambling activities and the perception of gambling as fun, exciting and a positive influence also emerged as the strongest risk factors,” she noted.
The study also revealed that children were spending up to $13,000 at gaming establishments and $10,000 on horse racing over a six-month period.
It also linked gambling to involvement in risky behaviour, such as shoplifting, carrying weapons to school, skipping classes, engaging in physical altercation and use of drugs.
According to the Executive Director, young persons who are actively going to school, have opportunities for meaningful participation within the school environment, are involved in caring relationships, are less likely to engage in gambling activities.
To this end, Miss Abrahams explained that intervention programmes should seek to strengthen the link between young people and school as this proved to be the most significant protective factor.
In the meantime, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in the Ministry of Health and Environment, Dr. Earl Wright said it was important that gambling is recognized as an addiction in Jamaica.
“Many people think of it only as a social problem. Like other addictions, gambling addiction is caused by changes within the brain similarly like what occurs in alcohol abuse, and needs to be tackled from many angles,” he explained, adding that early prevention and early recognition were key treatment strategies in dealing with this problem.
According to Dr. Wright, gambling has a tremendous impact on the economy and productivity, and it hindered not only the individuals but the family as well.
“As a result of the stigma associated with these problems, many individuals shy away from seeking treatment and it is therefore important that we work together to find ways to support people who seek help for their addiction and move towards recovery,” he said.

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