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Growing Up Online

Online gambling - Facts for youth

What is online gambling?

Online gambling includes games you play online that allow you to make bets, win, or lose money or things of value. It also includes online games that let you bet with virtual coins or tokens.

You can gamble online with a digital device, such as a computer, smartphone, tablet, or game consoles (like an Xbox and PlayStation).

In Alberta, most forms of online gambling are legal if you’re over 18 and not legal if you’re under 18. In Canada, the average legal age for online gambling is 19. All gambling laws are set by governments in the provinces and territories. Before you play, check the ratings and restrictions.

Examples of online gambling include:

  • sports betting or sports lotteries
  • online casino games, like Poker or Blackjack (This includes free play or practice games with or without money.)
  • games that allow you to earn, lose, or bet points, loot boxes, or other online prizes

Online gambling is a form of entertainment that should be supervised. Game developers sometimes put in-app purchases, loot boxes, and other gambling features in games. Playing games with these features may be not be legal if you’re under the legal age for gambling.

For most online gambling sites, you’ll need to sign up to use them. Since they’re online, the payments and payouts are also made online.

If you’re gambling online, it’s important to gamble responsibly. Responsible gambling includes:

  • having conversations with your parents and other adults about gambling
  • knowing how it works
  • knowing the different types of gambling
  • knowing what the risks are
  • setting limits for yourself

You can find more information about responsible gambling at GameSense.

How common is online gambling?

Studies show that many youth are involved in gambling.

  • More than 1 in 5 grade 7 students gamble.
  • Two in 5 grade 12 students gamble.

Men tend to gamble more often than women. They’re also at higher risk for problematic gambling.

Online gambling becomes a problem when it harms your mental or physical health, or has unwanted effects on your day-to-day life.

Why is gambling a concern?

If you’re between the ages of 12 and 17, gambling isn’t a legal activity for you as you’re more likely to have problems with gambling. When you’re a teen and young adult, you’re more at risk for gambling problems because you tend to make decisions quickly without thinking them through. During these years, you also have more changes in your mood and depend less on your parents to guide you than when you were younger.

The earlier you start gambling, the more likely you’ll have gambling problems later in life. You’re more likely to have gambling problems if your age 24 or younger.

How can you tell if you have a problem with online gambling?

You may want to talk to your parents or someone you trust about your gambling if you:

  • often spend more money than you plan
  • often spend more time gambling than you plan
  • gamble or play online games instead of doing your homework or chores, spending time with your family or pet, or doing other things you need to
  • can’t stop thinking about gambling or the game
  • have trouble cutting down or stopping gambling

What should you do if you think you might have a problem?

If you think you’re playing too often or gambling too much:

  • Set limits on the amount of time you spend playing a game.
  • Set limits on the amount of money you spend. Don’t spend more than your limit.
  • Spend time doing other things you like, such as hobbies, sports or physical activity, or being with friends and family.
  • Set a time to do homework and household chores.

If you find these aren’t working or that it’s hard to set limits, talk to someone you trust. This can be your parent, teacher, coach, counsellor, or your family doctor.

You might be thinking:

Remember that:

“It’s just a game! I’m not betting real money.”

Placing bets and gambling can be fun, but gambling can lead to more problems as you get older. Gambling can affect other areas of your life, like relationships with family and friends. It can also prevent you from getting other things done, doing your homework, sleeping, or doing other things you like to do.

“All my friends play, and I don’t want to be left out!”

Gambling can be a social activity, but pay attention to the warning signs. If you spend more time and money than you planned, miss out on things, and have trouble cutting down, you might want to think about other ways to connect with your friends.

“My parents buy lottery tickets and bet on sports. What’s the difference?”

Yes, sometimes people buy lottery tickets or place bets. It can be fun, as long as it doesn’t cause problems. If it stops you from buying the things you need, spending time with family or friends, or becomes something you think about too often, then it’s a problem. Learning to set limits is healthy.

“I don’t think I have a problem!”

Maybe you don’t have a problem. But when you spend more time and money than you planned, miss out on things, or have trouble cutting down, these are warning signs. Learning how to set healthy limits is important.

For help and support, contact: Alberta Health Services Youth Addiction Services at 1-866-332-2322 (toll free in Alberta).

See the Resources section for more information.

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