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  • Writer's pictureDrug Free Cecil

Gift Responsibly

Written By: Heather Eshleman

Lottery scratch off tickets are popular gifts for family members at Christmas. What can beat the thrill of the chance to win money? They have bright colors, have themes that make us think of fun, and can create conversation and competition among family members. Often there are young eyes watching the adults as they are thrilled to scratch off their tickets. Why does it matter?

Naturally youth are curious and want to join in! There are reasons why the minimum age is 18 to buy a lottery ticket in the State of Maryland.

  • Similar to reasons why youth should not use alcohol and drugs at a young age, the risk of problem gambling later in life increases for youth who gamble at a young age.

  • Gambling disorders run in families. Children of disordered gamblers are more likely than the general population to have gambling problems themselves later in life.

  • Addictions often start as an unhealthy coping strategy for stress or untreated mental health conditions.

  • Gambling addictions often co-occur with other addictions such as alcohol, substance misuse, and/or gaming addiction.

  • Regardless of the type of addiction, brain scans show the same pleasure centers in the brain light up due to the addiction of a behavior or substance. The brain is what causes youth and adults with addiction to continue the unhealthy behavior.

  • Just like cigarettes and alcohol are referred to as gateway drugs, lottery tickets can be a gateway to problem gambling.

Populations at greater risk for problem gambling include males, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and those who have been diagnosed with a mental health or substance misuse disorder. 2% of Maryland adults are problem gamblers and the percentage of youth problem gamblers is likely higher than 2%. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 22% of Maryland high school students reported gambling in the last year. In Cecil County, 19% of high school students reported gambling in the last year.

Join the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling by supporting the Responsible Gambling Holiday Lottery Campaign. Information can be found at: Post a message on social media, email the picture above to your colleagues and family members and most importantly, do not buy lottery tickets for those under 18 for the holidays. For those in need of help with problem gambling in Maryland, call 1-800-GAMBLER.


Felsher, Jennifer. Lottery Participation by Youth with Gambling Problems: Are Lottery Tickets a Gateway to Other Gambling Venues? International Gambling Studies, November 2004, 4 (2): 109-125. DOI: 10.1080/14459790412331296956

Maryland Department of Health, Youth Risk Behavior Survey/Youth Tobacco Survey (YRBS/YTS) 2018-2019.

National Council on Problem Gambling. Responsible Gambling Lottery Campaign.

Tracy, J K, Maranda, L, Scheele, C. Statewide Gambling Prevalence in Maryland: 2017. University of Maryland, Baltimore funded by the Maryland Department of Health, Behavioral Health Administration.



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