Toronto: The rapid change of the gambling landscape due to the advent of the online platform could spell doom for many teenagers as researchers have found that adolescents are gambling online at a significantly higher rate than previously reported.
"A substantially high proportion of young people are gambling in general, and mostly in unregulated forms, like in a dare or a game of pool, which are accessible to youth," said first author of the study Tara Elton-Marshall, scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada.
"The high proportion of teens who are gambling in any form is concerning because there is research to suggest that the earlier people start to gamble, the more likely it is to be an issue later on," Elton-Marshall noted.
The research, published in the journal BMC Public Health, comes from 10,035 students in grades nine to 12 (aged 13 to 19) who completed the 2012-2013 Youth Gambling Survey in schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The researcher found that nearly 10 per cent of teenagers in the three Canadian provinces said they had gambled online in the past three months.
It is the first Canadian-based study to find such high levels of online gambling among youth, the researchers said.
Of all adolescents surveyed, 42 per cent reported that they had gambled money or something of value in offline (land-based) gambling or online gambling.
Popular gambling activities included a dare or challenge (22 percent), instant-win or scratch tickets (14 percent), games of skill, such as pool or darts (12 percent), offline sports pools ( nine percent), and cards, such as poker and black jack (9 percent).
Most adolescents participating in many forms of gambling, with the exception of gambling on lottery tickets and instant-win or scratch tickets, were not of legal age to gamble.
The study, the first to use a problem gambling scale created specifically for adolescents, showed potential reasons for concern, particularly related to adolescents who were gambling both online and offline.
Among these adolescents, 36 percent had a score indicating a potential gambling problem on a scale measuring problem gambling, versus eight percent among offline-only gamblers.
Problem gambling severity scores were calculated based on responses to nine questions, such as how often teenagers missed activities such as team sports or band due to gambling/betting.