Editors' Forum | Innocent habits that lead to addiction
The misguided action of some parents, other adult relatives and caregivers who send children to buy lottery tickets or to collect winnings from these legal forms of gambling is triggering an addiction that, in some cases, becomes a lifelong affliction for victims.
Non-profit group RISE Life Management Services has for years been dealing with children who were introduced to gambling by their mother or father who sent them to the shops on what was a routine chore from a tender age. The children, in their innocence, as well as the adults, usually saw nothing wrong with this illegal activity. After all, it was just an errand, another trip to the shop.
"We have done lots in terms of helping young people to understand underaged gambling and what the consequences are. This year, we are making an even greater push to deal with that issue in terms of what we are doing in schools.
"So we are ramping up our programme in schools and having far more sensitisation sessions. We are targeting 2,400 school-age kids, primary-aged schoolchildren, per quarter, which is something like 9,600 for the year," Richard Henry, programme manager in charge of addiction counselling and support services, told an Editors' Forum at The Gleaner's central Kingston offices last Wednesday.
"Those figures actually triple the amount we did last year because we really think that our target now needs to be on under-aged gambling. So apart from that, we're also going to be doing more training of peer educators. We believe that young people listen to young people, so we're going to train peer educators to be able to deal with issues of gambling in schools."
The failure to recognise the potentially damaging long-term impact of innocent, fun activities is a major concern for the psychologist.
"There is a lot of gambling in terms of money football, flipping the coin, elastics and stuff like that, and people think they're trivial, but they're not, because some of the clients that we get who are older people now can go back to when they started gambling. And some of that is the gambling that we considered to be trivial, not important, but it is gambling, and it doesn't necessarily have to be about money but just something of value," explained Henry.
Many operators of gambling establishments are aware that selling to children or facilitating their participation in any way is illegal. In fact, they can be fined up to $50,000 upon conviction. However, some ignore the law because they know the children and their relatives and see nothing wrong with it.