Researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) have found that there are almost 750,000 problem gamblers among America's youth.
They found that gambling activity is widespread among U.S. adolescents, with results of the first national survey of its kind showing problem gambling occurring at a rate of 2.1 percent among youth 14 to 21.
Besides this, 11 percent of the youth surveyed gambled twice per week or more, a rate that describes frequent gambling.
And sixty-eight percent of the youth interviewed reported that they had gambled at least once in the past year.
"In a society where young people are increasingly exposed to gambling influences, there is cause for concern," said John W. Welte, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study.
For the study, a total of 2,274 U.S. adolescents were surveyed from August 2005 through January 2007.
The researchers examined pivotal times of life for youth and found that gambling increased with each major life change.
They found that those who worked full-time were more likely to gamble, those who were not students were more likely to gamble frequently and those who lived independently were more likely to gamble and to be problem gamblers.
"We compared problem gambling rates among youth with problem gambling rates among adults from our national study of U.S. adults in 2000," Welte said.
"As far as gender, it seems likely that females' gambling involvement tends to emerge in adulthood, while male involvement can be high in adolescence. We found identical problem gambling rates for adult males and young males (4 percent).
"We found adult females gambling rates were much higher (3 percent) than that of young females (less than one-tenth of a percent). In other words, problem gambling is almost non-existent among female adolescents and young adults," he added.
The study showed that black youth were less likely to have gambled than white youth; but if they gambled, it was likely to be more frequent.
Asians as a racial group showed the lowest gambling involvement. Native Americans were found to have a higher rate of frequent gambling when compared to whites as well as to be higher on measures of problem gambling.
Generally, low socio-economic groups were less like to gamble, but if they did, were more likely to be problem gamblers. The highest socio-economic groups are linked to the lowest gambling involvement.
Religion was related to having gambled in the past year with every religious group except Catholics, who were less likely than Protestants (except Baptists), to have gambled at all.
Other religions (which include Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Jehovah's Witnesses and others) had a lower rate of having gambling in the past year but if they gambled, they had higher rates of frequent gambling than any other religious group.
Similarly, Baptists were less likely than other Protestants to have gambled in the past year, but if they gambled, they had higher rates of frequent gambling.
The will be published in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Gambling Studies.