It’s a fair bet to say parents are woefully unaware of their kids’ gambling habits.
A new poll from the University of Michigan Health’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has revealed that one in six parents said they probably wouldn’t know if their child was betting online. And more than half said they don’t know their state’s legal online gambling age.
Sarah Clark, a co-director of the poll, said the lack of awareness has to do with ease of access, among other things.
“Teens and young adults may have a difficult time going into a casino unnoticed but they have easy access to a variety of betting and gambling options,” she said in the Mott Poll, 2024 news release. “This expanded accessibility has increased exposure to the risks of underage betting, but there is little regulation or conversation around this problem.”
Perfect storm of circumstances makes online betting a danger for minors
The Mott Poll revealed that parents are concerned about their children placing bets but many of them have no idea if their kids are doing it. Researchers pointed out that a convergence of multiple factors has made child sports betting very difficult to detect:
- Kids who play fantasy sports or participate in March Madness pools are somewhat familiar with how betting works.
- Sports betting apps are easy to use and employ the same bonus systems and rewards that games do.
- Two-thirds of parents in the poll said their children have their own bank account, debit card, or credit card.
One of the dangers of this convergence of circumstances is that kids may have a hard time understanding they’re betting real money,” Clark said. Clark said:
“Many online gambling options will seem familiar to teens. They feel like games kids have been playing on their phones, including features like bonus points and rewards. That familiarity may make it harder for teens to appreciate the difference between playing for fun and playing for money.”
Pervasive advertising doesn’t help
The Mott study also pointed out that it’s hard for kids to escape the influence of sports betting advertising, in particular. Ads featuring well-known stars like Jamie Foxx, Wayne Gretzky, and Shaquille O’Neal might make sports betting seem more approachable.
“Teens may be especially susceptible to these ads, which are often marketed to convey feelings of excitement, endless possibilities, and social credit,” Clark said.
Parents need to start conversations with their kids
While the poll did not offer any policy recommendations or prevention advice, it did make an important observation: the universality of online betting ads provides parents an opportunity to strike up conversations with their kids.
“The ubiquity of gambling ads may offer parents an opportunity to initiate open, productive conversations with their teen about the risks of gambling and its prevalence in their social circles,” Clark said. “Whether or not the child is actually using betting platforms, ongoing discussions may help them navigate the social pressures and media presence of gambling platforms.”