Why aren’t lottery tickets an appropriate gift for those under the legal age?
Like many other products, lottery games are restricted to adults because children lack the judgment to use them appropriately. Neuroscientists have long known that that the part of the brain that allows us to make responsible judgments is not fully developed in adolescents, making it more difficult for a child to properly assess the risks associated with gambling. While an adult will likely recognize that a winning ticket is nothing more than a stroke of luck or random chance, a child or teen will often have more difficulty putting a win into perspective.
Research on youth gambling has shown that the earlier children begin gambling, the more likely they are to develop gambling problems as adults. While most children who receive lottery tickets do not develop gambling problems, research has also found that those who do receive lottery tickets as gifts are more likely to develop a severe problem than those who do not. Finally, researchers have also learned that for children and adolescents, lottery games can act as a gateway to more problematic forms of gambling.
For most people gambling is simply entertainment, but it is entertainment that comes with a degree of risk. When a lottery ticket is given as a gift by a trusted parent or other family member, a child is likely to interpret the gift as saying “this is a safe thing for you to do.” We urge parents not to send this message and instead look for holiday gifts that are more age-appropriate. In the event someone else gives a ticket to your child, use it as an opportunity to talk to him or her about the risks associated with gambling. Not sure how to have that conversation? Visit http://youthgambling.mcgill.ca/Gambling2/en/parents/whatparentsdo.php to help you get started.