OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

October 17, 2002

The Lottery As Pied Piper
For Juvenile Gambling

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by Durand Jacobs Ph.D.

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


For more than the past twenty years I have studied various health-threatening and risk-taking behavior in youth, including their age of onset  and subsequent involvement with gambling.

In making this presentation, I shall wear several hats.  First, as a teacher and clinician, concerned with the potential hazards that a government-supported lottery may pose for legally underage juveniles in that state.  Second, as a social scientist, who has marshaled empirical data to support his concerns.  And finally, as an informed citizen, attempting to understand how to prepare our children to become healthy and productive citizens in a rapidly changing world scene, that has become virtually awash with more forms of readily accessible legal and illegal gambling, than ever before in our history. 

Our focus today will be on state-supported and promoted lotteries.  At last count:  38 of them among our fifty states, and still more eager to move out from the wings. 

For openers (sic), I invite your critical attention to the conduct of any given state lottery.  In its living form you will find it garbed in bright and colorful adornment, strolling through streets of every neighborhood, surely a magical troubadour, leading scores of happy followers on the road to easy riches.

(Parenthetically, riches thought to be easy by the players, but riches known to be sure and easy by strapped state legislators, who warmly welcome lottery revenues as a sure-fire, vote-getting, budget-stretching alternative to raising taxes.) 

Meanwhile, the siren song of this modern "Pied Piper" that urges adult players to "dream a little dream," inadvertently has caught the rapt attention of 12 to 17 year old juveniles.  They are experts in dreaming dreams!  In Technicolor, and with music!  Especially dreams of instant riches, (wow, wow), that mean no more need for school (oh yeah!); no longer need to prepare for earning a living (my, my!); pay off the family home and send the folks off on a long vacation (good, good!); world-wide travel (la,la!); a life full of recreation and indulgence (whoopee!); and comfortable leisure to enjoy the later years (nice, nice!).

Quite a set of dreams to latch on to, Mr. Piper Man.  Oh, play it again and again for me!

From the sidelines (egged on by lottery supporters) comes a litany of protestations: 

"What you say is terrible-it can't be so!"

"On the back of each ticket it says, 'You must be 18 to play' "! 

"Lottery ticket vendors can be punished for selling to minors!"

“And the law says minors can be brought to court for buying a ticket.”

 “Can’t be more than a very few kids, who buy lottery tickets.”

"Besides, playing the lottery isn't really gambling.  It's more like a church raffle."

"Lottery earnings support good  things, like education."

"Is there really any evidence to show that lotteries have this so-called Pied Piper Effect

on kids?  That lottery play can even lead kids into greater involvement with other forms

of gambling?" 

"Nah!  Kids can't get into casinos, or bingo parlors, or race tracks; it's against the law! 

And kids betting with a bookie on sporting events?  Nonsense!"

In the fall of 2000 my second review of juvenile gambling in North America was published.  This served to update and extend my original study of juvenile gambling, published in 1989.  This first pioneering investigation, published in 1989, was received by some as a kind of expose of a phenomena that had existed for some time, but had gone largely unnoticed by parents, school administrators, government officials and the public media. 

Of course, at that time everyone knew kids flipped coins and, maybe, bet on their prowess in games of personal skill, like bowling or darts.  But everyone also remained confident that kids simply couldn't wager on commercial games of chance:  "Against the law!"; much less consort with unsavory characters, like bookies.

Despite the latter publication of many similar studies in the U.S., Canada, England, the Continent, Australia and New Zealand, that largely replicated my earlier findings, people at large remain uneasy about accepting facts that run counter to their personal beliefs about the limited  nature and extent of juvenile gambling.

My fall of 2000 article on this subject was titled, "Juvenile Gambling in North America:  An Analysis of Long Term Trends and Future Prospects."  The Abstract, describing that study, read as follows: 

“Long term trends, based on findings from twenty independent prevalence studies sur­veying middle and high school youth in North America, suggest that within the past year two out of three legally underage youth have gambled for money. In the United States and Canada as many as 15.3 million 12-17 year olds have been gambling with or without adult awareness or approval, and 2.2 million of these are experiencing serious gambling-related problems. Lottery play dominates legalized forms of gambling among juveniles in both the United States and Canada. Trends between 1984-1999 indicate a substantial increase in the proportion of juveniles who report gambling within the past year, and a parallel increase in the proportion of juveniles reporting serious gambling- related problems. Yet, there continues to be little public awareness or concern about the extent, or the potential hazards associated with juvenile gambling. A composite profile of juveniles reporting numerous gambling problems is contrasted with their peers who reported few or none. Future prospects concerning this growing problem are offered.” (Italics added. Journal of Gambling Studies (2000), 16(2), 119-152.).

The results of this study left little doubt that juveniles had long been old hands at gambling.  That a disturbing number of them, (as many as 1 in 7), were reporting three or more serious gambling-related problems was eye-opening.   And that playing the lottery was one of their favorite bets, came as a surprise. 

With your permission I will leaven my continuing remarks with occasional excerpts from this article.  The following is one of my favorite quotes:

"Games Played By Juvenile Gamblers

“A consistent finding across all 20 studies of juvenile gambling in the United States and Canada is that minors (12-17 years of age) have managed to penetrate and participate to some degree in every form of social, government sanctioned, and illegal gambling available in their home communities and in places where they travel. To the casual ob­server the range of these activities is quite startling. It includes cards, dice, and board games with family and friends; betting with peers on games of personal skill, such as pool and bowling; playing arcade or video games for money, or for prizes; buying raffles tickets; sports bet­ting with friends at school or at off-track satellite betting parlors; wa­gering at horse and dog race tracks, and at cock fights; gambling in bingo and card rooms; betting on jai Alai games; playing slot ma­chines and table games in casinos; buying pull tabs and lottery tickets; playing at video lottery terminals; playing the stock market; wagering on the Internet, and placing bets with a bookmaker. Naturally, com­munities will differ regarding the local availability of one or another kind of gambling outlet.

“Notwithstanding local availability of gambling opportunities, the four most popular games that emerge repeatedly from surveys throughout North America are as follows: cards, dice and board game with family and friends typically ranks number one among juveniles; games of personal skill with peers tends to rank number two; sports betting, usually with peers in school settings, but also with a bookmaker, ranks third; and bingo ranks fourth.  However, wherever a state or provincial lottery had been operative before the prevalence study was completed, these government-promoted lottery games typically become favored by juvenile gamblers.  Indeed, introduction of a state lottery always increases gambling among both adults and juveniles in that jurisdiction, especially when pull-tabs, scratch cards, and other games that offer instant reinforcement are accessible. 

“After completing the first national study on gambling in America, Kallick et al. (1976) concluded that, when a state promotes one form of gambling, all forms of gambling, both legal and illegal, tend to increase.  To evaluate the effect of a state-promoted lottery on juvenile gambling Jacobs (1994) completed a three state study.  He found that in each state:  (1)  post-lottery prevalence rates for juvenile gambling had increased significantly from pre-lottery levels, (2)  the lottery had become a favored wager, when compared to other forms of gambling, and (3)  expenditures on other forms of gambling had increased from pre-lottery levels.  Jacobs (1994) called this combination of factors the "Pied Piper Effect." "

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The presentation that follows will be in the form of a "Talking Slide Show."  I may make a brief comment when introducing a new slide, but for the most part the slides will tell my story. 

The balance of my talk will address the three topics listed in "Today's Agenda." 

  1. Effects on juveniles of state-sponsored lotteries: smoking gun data

  2. Rethink the lottery as a fund-raising vehicle in light of product risk and safety issues

  3. Consider product safety impact on children - practical steps to lessen dngers.

    1. Revisit policies on state-supported advertising volume

    2. Revisit policies on state-endoresed advertising content

    3. Revisit vendor accountability.

I call your attention to my major thesis.  Namely, that lottery advertising and easy accessibility (1)  lead children to wager on lottery games, and (2)  lead children to expand and increase their wagering on other kinds of legalized, and still illegal, gambling. 

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Now let's look at what I call the "smoking gun" evidence, that supports my major thesis about the influence of state lotteries on increases in juvenile gambling.    

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Recall the conclusions of Kallick et al (1976) that stated, “when a state promotes one form of gambling, all forms of gambling, both legal and illegal, tend to increase.”  I believe that what they found about the behavior of adult gamblers 30 years ago, also applies to the behavior of today's juvenile gamblers.  Evidence portrayed below serves to support that position.

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Of the 15 juvenile gambling prevalence studies I reviewed in the United States, ten were completed in venues where a lottery had been operating for some time before the study was initiated.  In these venues the median level of juveniles, who had gambled in a past year, was 66%. 

No lottery had been operating in 5 of the jurisdictions included in my review.  In those places the median level of juveniles, who had gambled in a past year was 52%.  This finding supports my contention that the presence of a lottery is strongly associated with increased levels of gambling among juveniles, i.e. the "Pied Piper Effect."

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We now may summarize the "smoking gun" evidence regarding the several deleterious effects of lotteries on the nature and extent of juvenile gambling.  The four spent "bullets" lined up in slide #12 lead one to conclude that, indeed, state or provincial lotteries represent a product that is dangerous to some juveniles, and may exert a harmful influence on their health and well being. 


  • Former rates of juvenile gambling increase

  • Jubeniles make lottery games a favorite bet

  • Juveniles increase other forms of gambling

  • Juveniles spend more on gambling

  • The product is Dangerous to Juveniles And Is Causing Harm

"Although no direct causal effect can be shown between the operation of a lottery and a corresponding increase of gambling among juveniles, the circumstantial evidence clearly points in that direction. Few would contest the fact that the introduction and continuing ad­vertising and promotion of a lottery creates the most plentiful and locally accessible outlets for gambling. of legalized gambling. The impact of this general climate of "it's O.K. to play" does not escape the     lottery tickets a minor adventure which is very sel­dom discouraged by vendors, and which often is aided and abetted by their parents and older relatives (Jacobs 1989a; Ladouceur & Mireault, 1988; Westphal et al., 1998; Winters et al., 1990). Westphal et al. (1998), following their statewide study of juvenile gambling in Louisi­ana, recommended strict enforcement of existing age restrictions on lottery sales. They found that 65% of their sample had played "scratch off " lottery tickets, as well as other lottery games. Their data revealed that lottery play exceeded all other forms of licensed, as well as social gambling. Volberg and Moore's (1999) replication study of juvenile gambling in Washington State found a significant increase in juvenile lottery play between 1993 and 1999. This was found to be directly cor­related with increased participation and expenditures by these youth in other types of gambling, as well. Similarly, in Canadian studies the lottery clearly prevailed as the favorite bet among juvenile gamblers, including children in fourth through sixth grades (Gupta & Derevensky, 1996; Ladouceur et al., 1994).

“The findings noted above support Jacobs' (1994) earlier recom­mendations for restricting the

extent and the seductive content of lot­tery advertising, rigorous enforcement of laws prohibiting

minors from gambling, and holding elected officials and appointed lottery commis­sioners

directly accountable for contributing (howsoever inadver­tently) to juvenile gambling in general,

and to gambling-related prob­lems among juveniles in particular. The use of lotteries and other

forms of gambling by state and provincial governments, as a major rev­enue-producing stream,

 was aggressively challenged."  (p.126; Italics added). 


  • Where lotteries exist, and where they are being contemplated, state legislators and the affected public must rethink the cost-benefits equation of this kind of revenue-raising  vehicle in light of evidence revealing product risk and safety issues affecting children. 

  • Programs must also be implemented and paid for from lottery Adminstrative Funds to address each of the Product Safety issues specified in Slide 13.  These (1) fully eliminate the hazards of underage gambling; (2) provide preventive educational services, explaining the potential hazards of gamblings;  (3) provide funding for training of therapists to help youth with gambling-related problems on lottery products;  and (4) support research that may identify personal and situational risk factors that increase the probability that children will become problem gamblers. 

Steps To Improved Product Safety For Children

Zero Tolerance for underage gambling

Age posting and policing of vendors

Reduce advertising and "seductive" ads

Public education about hazards

Free 800 Help lines

Training of therapists

Funding for treatment & research

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