Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Editors' Forum | Society normalising underage gambling, other illegal activities

Published:Tuesday | October 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Sonita Morin-Abraham, executive director of Rise Life Management Services.
Joy Crawford, co-founder and director of programmes and training at Eve for Life.
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Executive director of RISE Life Management Services, Sonita Morin-Abraham, is particularly bothered by the ingrained behaviour of underage gambling and other illegal activities that are widely accepted as normal and consistent with regular child-rearing activities.

She believes there needs to be wide-scale, sustained intervention to help both the child victim and caregiver recognise the potentially damaging impact of what for many is now a routine behaviour.

"Maas Richard needs to understand that by sending his grandson to buy the ticket, what he's doing is really sending his grandchild, who he is supposed to love, into the possibility of gambling because once he's doing it for his grandfather, he's then going to do it for himself. That's how we all start, and then that can lead to a very serious addiction," she warned during a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Wednesday at the media house's North Street, Kingston, offices.

"It's not just a fun thing, it's a way to earn some money for the majority of the population, but one-tenth of the population is going to end up with a gambling addiction."

For Joy Crawford, co-founder and director of programmes and training at Eve for Life, the normalisation of child gambling needs to be addressed with urgency in a comprehensive, sustainable manner.

"Gambling is like most other behaviours that we see in our society that we would consider harmful or addictive, or so that we have created a culture around something that we know has a negative impact and we have made it normal. So, for me, for example, the issue revolves around how we have turned what we called the dirty old man into a sugar-daddy. We have developed into a society that we have normalised so many negative behaviours and habits from kids from they were small," Crawford lamented.

...It is not cute

The instigation and reinforcement of worrying behaviour by parents who lead their children to believe that it is cute that they are able to do the latest dance moves during a children's party when they vie for the video light is particularly disturbing for Joy Crawford, co-founder and director of programmes and training at Eve for Life.

"We do the dutty wine with them and think it is OK. There are so many things in our society that our children are exposed to that adults find funny, or we think, 'Well, I don't have a choice, or I'm just sending him to pick up a cigarette here or there', but really, for the child, it becomes a habit that sometimes becomes a lifestyle and puts them at severe risk," she said last Wednesday at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the media house's North Street, Kingston, offices.

While it is not able to say how many children are engaged in gambling, with or without the knowledge, consent and endorsement of their parents, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission is moving to get a grasp on the numbers in order to better inform its efforts to address underage gambling.

"We don't have any concrete research on it, but that is actually in our plans, to do some research on attitudes and usage of gambling. We think that's actually one of the things that will come out of the research, the extent to which people engage in gambling and what they see as gambling. Many people think there is no harm sending the child to buy a ticket or to collect the winnings on a bet, but it is, in fact, causing children to say, 'If I can buy for you, then I should be able to do it,'" said Crawford.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com