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Gambling affecting children, according to Louisiana study

SHREVEPORT, La. (BP)–Children in Louisiana are
developing gambling problems as early as 11 years of age,
according to a study by the Louisiana State University
School of Medicine in Shreveport.
“Sixth-grade gamblers already exhibiting addictive
behavior — that was astonishing to us,” said James
Westphal, an associate professor in the medical school’s
department of psychiatry.
In an extensive survey of 12,066 students in grades six
through 12 across 57 parishes in Louisiana last spring,
researchers found that 84 percent or more of them had
Two-thirds of the students said they had tried
scratch-off lottery tickets — even though it is illegal for
adolescents to buy them in the state.
One-fourth or more of the students said they had tried
video poker — a widespread and addictive, form of gambling
in Louisiana and various other states — along with the
lottery, bingo, dice and cards.
Sixteen percent of the students said they had bet on
slot machines. Seven percent said they had been to horse
races and bet, while 4 percent had visited a riverboat
casino and 3 percent had gambled at one.
In questions to identify students who appear headed for
gambling problems, researchers found that 10 percent of
Louisiana children were considered high-risk for gambling
problems and 6 percent gave responses indicating
pathological gambling problems.
Of the scratch-off lottery tickets, Cheryl Scott, a
certified compulsive gambling counselor in Shreveport, told
The Times daily newspaper, “I’ve seen parents buy a ticket
and let their kid scratch it off. That’s just setting them
up or planting the seed early.”
Meanwhile, a poll by the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper
shows that support for gambling is in a freefall, with only
16 percent of Louisianians saying the activity has had a
positive impact on the state.
By contrast, 49 percent of those surveyed said
legalized gambling has had a negative impact on the state
and 30 percent said it has made no difference.
In polling at the end of 1996, 30 percent of people
said gambling had been good for the state and 38 percent
said it had been bad.
Thirty-five percent of respondents to the latest poll
said they knew of someone who had gotten into serious
financial trouble because of gambling.
Sixty-four percent said gambling is a serious or very
serious problem in the state.
“I do agree that more people are filing for
bankruptcies, more divorces are happening, more John Q.
Citizen people are either being directly affected or know
someone who has been affected (by a gambling problem),”
acknowledged Audrey McCain, a state representative from
“The longer that tends to happen, the more disgruntled
the public is going to be.”
When state legislators gather for a special session at
the first of March, their agenda will include whether to
approve a new plan for reviving the bankrupt land-based
casino in New Orleans.
Gambling proponents insist that approval of the casino
would not represent an expansion of gambling since it was
open at one time and is simply trying to reorganize.
Gambling opponents have a simpler way of defining the
1) There is no casino gambling in New Orleans at this
2) Approval of a new agreement by the legislature will
allow casino gambling to begin in New Orleans.
3) How else does one define expansion?
“I strongly disagree with all who deny that the
ratification of the revised (land-based casino) contract
with Harrah’s Jazz Company by the legislature would not be
an expansion of gambling,” emphasized Ken Ward, executive
director of the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation.
Another gambling-related issue, to be considered in the
legislature’s regular session, entails final approval for
placing slot machines at racetracks in a pair of Louisiana
Ward noted some observers predict the current wave of
legalized gambling will end within the next 25 years as
public concerns and outcry increase. “I sincerely think the
moral response requires that we do all we can to hasten that
day,” he said.

    About the Author

  • C. Lacy Thompson