NCRG Conference: The Latest On Teen Gambling

The October 3 afternoon session of the12th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addictionfeatured two leading researchers and their latest studies about youth gambling. Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and associate director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at the University of Minnesota, discussed his longitudinal research on the rates of youth gambling in Minnesota since 1992. Marc Potenza, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in the child study center and of neurobiology and founding director of the Problem Gambling Clinic at Yale University School of Medicine, presented his findings from a survey of Connecticut youth that further explored the factors that are associated with teen gambling behavior. Dr. Potenza is also the principal investigator of the NCRG Center of Excellence in Gambling Research at Yale University.

Dr. Stinchfield began the session by stating that this is the first generation of youth to be exposed to a variety of gaming venues and widespread gambling advertising. He noted that the rapid expansion of gambling has brought on concerns about youth gambling behaviors and problem gambling in Minnesota.

Dr. Stinchfield analyzed data from a survey of 79,323 ninth and 12th-grade Minnesota students from 1992 to 2010 – one of the few studies that has tracked teen gambling behavior over an extended time period, including a time point when casinos were built in the state (Stinchfield, 2011). He aimed to:

(1) Measure the current (2010) rates of gambling among Minnesota public school students and compare that data with the variables of gender and race

(2) Measure the rates of underage gambling

(3) Compare gambling and frequent gambling rates from 1992 to 2010.

Results from the survey showed that there has been a significant decline in the percentage of youth who have gambled in the past year, and the lottery was the game that showed the most significant decline among those surveyed. Dr. Stinchfield hypothesized that this decline could be due to a few factors, some of which could include effective prevention efforts and the novelty of gambling wearing off in Minnesota. He also stated that youth now spend their free time in ways other than gambling: on cell phones, iPads and social networking sites. You can read more about Dr. Stinchfield’s study in theFebruary 2011 Gambling Disorders 360° post.

Next, Dr. Potenza presented results from a survey that he and his colleagues issued to 4,523 Connecticut high school students (Potenza et. al., 2011). The goal of this survey was to assess a broad range of risky behaviors that could be associated with problem gambling. Study participants included public four-year, non-vocational and special education schools in the state, and the sample demographics were consistent with the demographics of Connecticut residents aged 14-18 years from the 2000 Census.

Dr. Potenza and his colleagues concluded that adolescence is a developmental period that is characterized by engaging in risk-taking behaviors. They found an increased problem gambling severity in adolescents who also have problems with substance abuse, depression and aggression.

When the researchers asked the adolescents about their gambling activities, they found a number of similarities and differences between those who reported to gamble online and those that reported gambling offline in other ways. First, adolescents who gambled online were more likely to report problem gambling behaviors than the non-Internet gambling group. When comparing groups of teens that gambled online to those that gambled offline, poor academic performance and heavy alcohol use were more strongly associated with the Internet gambling group than those that gambled offline. However, factors of substance use, depression and measures of violence and aggression were strongly associated with problem gambling among both the Internet and non-Internet gambling groups of teenagers.

With these findings in mind, Dr. Potenza stated that future studies should identify specific personal and environmental factors in order to advance prevention, treatment and policy efforts.

These two researchers were a few of the many insightful talks from the NCRG Conference. Continue to visitGambling Disorders 360°for conference audio interviews from NCRG Conference presenters and attendees.


Potenza, M. N., Wareham, J.D., Steinberg, M.A., Rugle, L. Cavalla, D.A., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Desai, R.A. (2011). Correlates of at-risk/problem gambling Internet gambling in adolescents.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(2), 150-159.

Stinchfield, R. (2011). Gambling among Minnesota public school students from 1992 to 2007: Declines in youth gambling.Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0021266l

NCRG staffConference on Gambling and AddictionadolescentsConferenceeducationgamblingPotenzaresearchStinchfieldteens