News Release

December 13, 2004

Contact: Kristina Goodnough, 860-679-3700

Think Twice Before Giving Kids a Poker Set for the Holidays

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Poker has become a popular pastime for teenagers around the country, thanks to the booming popularity of television shows that feature celebrities and unknowns alike trying to figure out whether to hold em’ or fold ‘em.

Low stakes card games with pals can be harmless fun for some youngsters, but for others it can trigger a gambling problem that can wreak havoc with their lives. “Poker is not harmless for everyone. Some, especially those who win a sizeable amount of money at one time or another, find themselves chasing the next big win until they get in trouble financially and ruin relationships with friends and family,” says Nancy Petry, Ph.D., director of the Gambling Addiction Treatment and Research Center and professor of psychiatry at UConn Health Center. “It’s not always possible to predict who might wind up with a gambling problem, so parents should think twice before encouraging their kids to gamble with presents of poker sets which suddenly seem to be flooding the stores and catalogs,” says Petry.

If their kids are playing poker, parents should supervise the games. And, according to Petry, parents should be alert to any of the following signs of trouble:

  • Lots of unexplained money, or purchase of extravagant items;
  • Unaccounted for losses of allowances, or money from jobs or holiday gifts;
  • Mood swings after or in anticipation of poker games;
  • Borrowing or taking money from family or friends; and
  • Poker playing takes over as the primary occupation of free time.

If parents suspect their youngster has a gambling problem, Petry recommends the following steps.

  • Talk with your child about how much and how often he or she is gambling;
  • Talk openly and often with your child about the dangers of addictions: drugs, alcohol and gambling. It is never too early to start. Many problem gamblers began gambling as young as nine years old.
  • Remind your child that hard work, not luck, will pay off in the long run.
  • Set a good example by knowing when to stop gambling yourself.
  • Seek professional help if the problem persists.

The Gambling Addiction Treatment and Research Center at UConn Health Center provides free and confidential assessments and treatments for individuals with gambling problems, and for their loved ones. Call toll free 877-400-0570 to learn more.

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