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Online Poker News Archives - September 6, 2005

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Copyright 2005 The London Free Press

September 6, 2005

Teens hooked on poker


Card-playing is a growing problem for youth today.

Kevin figures about half the male students at his suburban high school are regular poker players. It's the latest teen rite of passage -- a little low-budget action on the weekend.

He started playing at age 15.

By the end of his senior year, the now 17-year-old was hunting bigger games. He frequented illegal poker clubs on Long Island, where your birthdate would be overlooked if your bankroll was big enough.

He dropped $2,000 betting during a family vacation in the Caribbean. When his job managing an ice cream shop conflicted with poker nights, he quit.

As his losses swelled, Kevin started looting a $30,000 US college fund set up by his parents. "I didn't care if I won or lost," said Kevin, who went through $7,000 in three months. "I just wanted to gamble."

Experts fear the country's growing obsession with poker is putting teens at a high risk for compulsive betting.

"I get calls from parents and kids, some as young as 14, every day," said Arnie Wexler, a counsellor and former head of the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling. "I've never seen anything explode like this has in the last year."

Poker, particularly the incredibly popular Texas Hold 'Em version played in the $56-million World Series of Poker, stands alongside hip-hop and video games as pillars of youth culture.

According to a study by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, 15.9 per cent of in-state students between Grades 6 and 12 admit to gambling-related woes or signs of addiction. Four per cent reported stealing money from relatives to gamble.

A U.S. survey showed a huge increase in card-playing among males ages 14 to 22, with the number of youths reporting they gambled in card games at least once a week jumping from 6.2 per cent in 2003 to 11.4 per cent last year -- an 84-per-cent increase. The majority of poker players are males.

It's easier for a teenager to place a bet than to buy a six-pack of beer or a pack of cigarettes.

"Poker is huge," Kevin said.

There are no definitive statistics on the number of teenagers battling compulsive gambling problems. But Ed Looney, who followed Wexler as head of the New Jersey council, cites the 80-15-5 rule.

"Eighty per cent of the kids who gamble, there will be no impact on their lives," Looney said. "Fifteen per cent will have some problem. And five per cent will become addicted."

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