Incidence of youth internet gambling low in the USA

The latest annual National Annenburg Survey of Youth shows that the incidence of youthful Internet gamblers remains at the low levels experienced following last year's "precipitous decline." First conducted in 2002, the annual study is frequently used as a reference by US politicians attacking online gambling, such as Republican Representative Spencer Bachus.

The current report, released at the end of November 2008, reports that 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.

Card playing for money at least once a month on the Internet among male youth remained at almost the same level in 2008 (3.3 percent) as in 2007 (2.4 percent). Weekly rates of gambling also showed little change, going from 1.1 percent to 1.7 percent. Card playing in general remained at about the same levels for both monthly (26.0 percent to 25.6 percent) and weekly (5.0 percent to 4.2 percent) play.

"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," he added.

Despite the leveling off of card playing, the researcher claims that 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 (United States) basis, more than 300 000 youth in the study age range (14 to 22 years old) gamble for money at least once a week on the Internet, and over 700 000 do so at least once a month.

The study does not distinguish between the 14 to 18-year-olds, and 18 to 22-years-olds, however.

Romer notes that the impact of the new UIGEA regulations recently published by the U.S. Treasury Department is not reflected in the latest study, and could influence the ability of young people to access Internet poker sites.

The researcher calls for continued efforts to educate young people on "the hazards of Internet gambling."

The relative stability of card playing did not extend to other forms of gambling, especially sports betting reports Romer

There was increased betting on sports by male youths, 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 overall 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.

Romer reports that 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 percent in 2007 vs. 7.8 percent in 2008). The rates do not flag confirmed problem gamblers, but those who declared at least one possible problem gambling symptom.

Gambling of all kinds in young women tends to lag behind men, the researcher reported. 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 declaring they played online. Consequently, the rate of declared problem gambling symptoms is lower, at around 1 percent overall.

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