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Chris Fane's Student Ministry News

A youth ministry blog consisting of a collection of articles and notes related to
student / youth ministry. Gathered by Chris Fane of egadideas.com

Online gambling snagging children as young as 9


Addiction experts are blaming the explosion of online gambling for a dramatic rise in the number of young people getting hooked.

"Even kids as young as nine years are learning about gambling. They may not be gambling with money, but they're learning concepts of gambling. They see it," said Jon Kelly, CEO of Ontario's Responsible Gambling Council.

The disturbing trend will be one of the topics debated at an international gambling conference being hosted by the Responsible Gambling Council in Toronto next week.

Louise Smith, the director of the YMCA's Youth gambling program, said she knew of a case where one nine-year-old spent hours playing poker online with his dad.

"He really knew the rules and lingo, that kind of thing," said Smith.

She said her front-line workers are reporting an explosion in poker among younger kids.

"Over the past year, one of things we've heard about is poker playing in elementary schools. Teachers are calling," she said.

More often though, the players are older teens and young adults.

A CBC reporter interviewed Ryerson University students who readily admitted their poker pastime sometimes overtook their school work.

Vinthan Mahalingan, sitting with a group of fellow students, said they played poker everyday for at least three hours, or went to the casino several days a week.

"We're gamble-holics," he said, grinning. "We love it!"

Mahalingan said he and his gambling buddies picked up their poker skills online.

"You can learn the basics because it's free and people tell you what to do. There's a lot to do there," he said.

Addiction counsellers say online gambling is just part of a larger and growing poker culture. People can watch televised poker tournaments, read books, go to seminars. A whole league of newly minted poker celebrities are now revered like sports heroes.

Counsellors say stories of big wins have created unrealistic expectations among youngsters and teens.

As Mahalingan's buddy Anton Soorinyakumar says of the life of the professional poker player:

"You make money and all you do is play cards. And make millions of dollars."

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