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Voice of the Reader: Youth gambling needs to be prevented

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To the Editor:

I wanted to raise awareness of an issue rapidly growing in Illinois - youth gambling. On average, youth are exposed to gambling at age 10, which is earlier than alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The earlier youth are exposed, the more likely they are to have a gambling problem later in life. Adolescent prevalence rates of problem gambling are 2-4 times that of adults. Youth who gamble are more likely to have mental health challenges, more likely to partake in drinking, smoking, and drugs, and more likely to be involved in criminal behaviors.

Focus Youth Gambling Prevention is a statewide youth prevention program that provides students with many programming opportunities to build skills in advocacy, leadership, public speaking, and youth gambling prevention education. Our mission is to prevent underage gambling and create positive change in communities through student advocacy, youth leadership development, and gambling prevention campaigns.

This program is for youth leaders who want a seat at the table, to share their own perspectives, and to use their voices. Youth groups can be at the forefront of this rising issue and participate in prevention efforts to create healthier and safer communities statewide.

We need to raise awareness and to involve youth groups to participate in Focus in their communities. Focus Youth Gambling Prevention is a program of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health and is funded in whole by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery.

Brandon Moran



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