Why You Shouldn’t Give Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets to Kids as Gifts

It’s not uncommon for children and teenagers to receive a slew of scratch-off lottery tickets as a stocking stuffer on Christmas or as a bonus birthday add-on. But buying scratch-offs for kids can lead to teen gambling in Atlantic City before you know it. There are specific dangers that arise when children are given scratch-off lottery tickets. If adults are not aware of the problems that arise when gambling is introduced to children, they may not hesitate to allow their kids to use scratch-off lottery tickets. So, you should think twice before buying your kids lottery tickets as a gift this holiday season — let’s take a closer look at the subject.

Scratch-Off Lottery Cards for Birthdays: An Emerging Trend

A new trend has recently emerged for using scratch-off cards as favors for children’s’ birthdays or special occasions. These cards are not issued by an official state-run lottery but are novelty items where children can participate in a chance-based game to determine a pre-selected prize winner. These cards often appeal to children with cartoon characters and images similar to those found in popular kids’ cartoons. A portion of the ticket is made of a material that can be scratched off to reveal a “loser” or “winner” designation, similar to the way scratch-off lottery tickets work.

The use of these cards to award prizes at a child’s birthday party or for another special occasion would seem inappropriate to some, yet the trend for this form of prize-winning is growing in popularity, and listings for these types of products can be found everywhere from Amazon to Etsy. That said, the use of mock scratch-off tickets for children sets a dangerous precedent that may result in future gambling problems as they become adults.

Like the ones being discussed here, scratch-off tickets are designed to appeal to the reward center of the human brain. When engaged in a game of chance, dopamine levels increase before an award is won. When the brain recognizes the potential to earn a reward through chance, neurons release dopamine immediately upon realizing the opportunity. Dopamine will also enhance memories when they are associated with receiving an award. This marks the beginnings of a risky cycle, where participants link the potential of reward with feelings of euphoria. Some individuals will start to seek out these positive feelings by continually engaging in games of chance.

Parents should be made aware of the problems that may occur if mock scratch-off tickets are used for kid’s birthday parties or special occasions. With education and accurate information, parents and guardians will be able to recognize the potential dangers of supplying children with lottery scratch-off tickets.

Holidays & Birthdays Shouldn’t Introduce Children to Gambling

When you introduce children to the highs and lows of gambling on holidays or their birthday, they begin to associate the risky activity with happy times in their lives. This could lead to serious issues down the road, which is why it’s so important to keep your children away from gambling to the best of your ability. Instead, let them experience rewarding activities on their birthdays and holidays, like sports and strategy games with their friends and family.

Scratch-Offs Appeal to Kids More than Other Forms of Gambling

Infographic explaining psychological reasons not to give lottery tickets to children

Scratch-off lottery tickets seem like a fun game to children, with colorful branding, fun games, and the excitement of not knowing what your prize will be. Kids and teens aren’t old enough to understand that “almost winning” (i.e., missing a win by one number) isn’t really possible with scratch-offs — each ticket is either a winner or a loser; how close the numbers were to a win has no effect on how close the ticket was to being a winner. These are just a few of the reasons why scratch-off lottery tickets are problematic gifts for kids on holidays and their birthdays.

Don’t Let Gambling Disorders Develop Early

In 2013, Donald Weinbaum, our executive director at CCGNJ, opined in a press release, “Parents really can make a difference and reduce the risk of children developing gambling problems… Let’s send the right message this year and refrain from giving lottery tickets to young children.” We still stand by that message to this day. You can steer your children in the right direction by providing other, more rewarding birthday and holiday gifts.

Infographic explaining why scratch-offs are bad gifts for children

You can call our helpline at 800-GAMBLER any time for support, treatment, and hope.



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