Letter to the editor

Problem gambling and the young

To the editor:

Since 1976 Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties has been serving area residents and today staff members have a strong presence throughout this area's communities and schools. As an agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, our services are available to everyone without regard to race, creed or lifestyle.

Our local agency provides numerous services, from our food pantry to domestic violence and crime victims services to mediation, prevention education, and counseling. We always strive to provide quality programming and services to those we serve.

Today we are proud to announce that we were recently awarded a $9,000 grant from the New York Council on Problem Gambling, for participation in the 2014 Problem Gambling Parent Outreach and Education Project. This project, aimed at parents, guardians and caring adults of school-aged youth in Montgomery County, provides information on how to recognize and/or prevent problem gambling in youth.

Information will be distributed through various public education and awareness efforts.

Activities will include (but are not limited to) presentations to adults and parent groups, distributing information about where to get help, warning signs for problem gambling, the use of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, articles published in organizational and school newsletters and websites, and radio and newspaper ads.

These presentations and informational handouts provide the background on addiction to gambling and its correlation often to other addictive behaviors including: increased prevalence of risky behavior; being twice as likely to binge drink alcohol, and three times as likely to use marijuana and be in trouble with the police. Research surrounding youth gambling shows a significant gap in parental concern for youth gambling behavior and the level of actual youth gambling problems.

The U.S. adolescent prevalence shows that approximately 4 to 8 percent of kids between 12 and 17 years of age meet criteria for a gambling problem and another 10 to 15 percent are at risk of developing a problem. Research also shows that a majority of kids have gambled before their 18th birthday. Adolescent involvement in gambling is believed to be greater than their use of tobacco, hard liquor and marijuana.

Even more alarming is that 80 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported having gambled in the last year and 35 percent admit to gambling at least once per week.

Gambling addiction is a serious issue and recognizing the warning signs is an important first step. Empowering adults with this information is important for individuals who have a loved one, or personally, who may be struggling with a gambling problem.

Problem gambling not only affects the person with the problem, but it also affects the family. Having the resources and knowing where to turn for help is a key to taking the first steps to getting help for the individual(s) affected.

Catholic Charities is looking for local organizations and groups to welcome these brief educational presentations. We are also looking for groups and organizations in Montgomery County to help us distribute flyers, brochures and other pertinent information. If you can help us, or may be interested in having a presentation, call 842-4202, ext. 3135, for more information.

Denise Benton,


The writer is youth services director for Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties.